Continuing Efforts to Connect Education to the Workforce

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Written by: Damion Pechota and Tom Keily
Jan. 7, 2020

Historically, state policymakers have sought ways to connect people to quality education that leads to sustaining and fulfilling jobs. As the 2020 legislative sessions get underway in states, there are a few general principles that support connecting education and workforce development. In many instances, the legislation introduced in 2019 (at least 258 bills in 49 states) and ultimately enacted (49 bills in 26 states) apply these principles.

Design policy to support the diverse needs of people engaging or reengaging, with work-relevant education.

Today’s postsecondary students are older, diverse and are not going directly to postsecondary institutions following high school. They require additional support and resources to access work-related educational experiences. Considering the diverse needs of existing postsecondary students and those outside of the postsecondary system can support individuals to engage or reengage with work-relevant education.

Vermont H. 533 includes many workforce development provisions, some intended to support a diverse population in seeking education and training. The legislation requires the department of labor to work with qualified training providers, the department of children and families, and health care providers to increase the availability of health care, construction, manufacturing and child care credential programs. It also requires that the department of labor, department of education, Vermont State Colleges and Vermont Adult Technical Education Association examine and report on the design, implementation and cost of an integrated postsecondary career and technical education system.

Collaborate to develop state and regional systems that go beyond federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act requirements.

Frequently, states go beyond WIOA requirements. Often this includes supporting collaborative networks to serve the diversity of workforce needs that exist at the local level.

Arkansas S.B. 522 requires, among other things, the office of skills development and career education and workforce development board to collaborate with the department of higher education, higher education coordinating board and department of education — as well as business, education, state agency and workforce development stakeholders — to develop and oversee an apprenticeship office that serves as the hub for all apprenticeship programs.

Indiana H.E.A. 1002 creates industry collaboration organizations to support career and technical education, including grants to support the transportation of students, courses that lead to credentialing and career counseling for students.

Leverage existing data and financial investments to align efforts with policy goals.

Data are critical to connecting the often siloed education and workforce systems. By sharing and providing resources to analyze data, states can effectively leverage data to inform policy practices.

Montana H.B. 619 requires the superintendent of public instruction to match K-12 student level data with higher education and workforce data for the purpose of ensuring the K-12 education system meets the expectation of Montana’s university and workforce systems.

State policy can leverage existing financial resources around common goals and outcomes that meet the needs of disparate programs, stakeholders and people. Financial investments built on this model can allow greater flexibility to meet these needs.

Colorado S.B. 19-097 creates a grant program to provide funds for capital construction and equipment purchases at technical colleges.

Maryland S.B. 515/H.B. 1115 allow community colleges to accept donation funds, which the state will match with a grant to support technology improvements.

For a look back at education and workforce development policies in 2019 and additional examples of how states are applying these principles, check out this Policy Snapshot and this Policy Brief. For up-to-date information on 2020 legislative activity relating to postsecondary and workforce development, see our State Education Policy Tracking database.

Author profile

Tom Keily

Tom Keily

Principal at Education Commission of the States |

As a principal, Tom works on topics relating to connections between education and workforce development, among other P-20 education policy topics. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Tom taught middle school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tom is dedicated to providing state policymakers with quality research that supports them in making a positive impact on students' lives.

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