Establish a bold, collaborative vision for credential attainment. 43 states have established postsecondary attainment goals for the number of adults who must hold a higher education credential to meet the nation’s need for talent. The most promising examples of these attainment goals combine a long-term goal with measurable, shorter-term goals, and metrics that align state, federal and private funding sources across the education and workforce system. To increase accountability, states should also consider ways to clearly articulate the state’s attainment goal, including a target date, in statute, higher education master plans, or other public documents

State Program Examples

  • Iowa

    Future Ready Iowa

    To increase Iowa’s talent pipeline, Governor Reynolds set a goal of 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025. In August 2016,  Executive Order 88 created the Future Ready Iowa Alliance, a collaborative approach aimed at highlighting best practices and nurturing high-quality partnerships to meet the state’s attainment goal and workforce needs. Funding from an NGA grant supported staff to develop short- and long-term metrics and reporting benchmarks on this goal, which state leadership used as evidence to request an $18 million increase in workforce training programs targeted at proven and promising training models in high-demand occupations. To build on this goal, the legislature later enacted Senate File (SF) 2353, which requires local workforce boards to develop and implement career pathways aligned with statewide workforce goals. Since then, the Alliance has established three programs including the Last-Dollar Scholarship, Employer Innovation Fund and resources to help employers prepare their future workforces.

  • Oregon

    Revised Attainment Goal for Adult Learners

    In 2017, the Oregon Legislature enacted House Bill 2311, revising the state postsecondary attainment goal to include working-age adults not currently enrolled in an institution of higher education or another post-secondary training program. The bill also requires the Higher Education Coordination Commission in conjunction with the Oregon Workforce Investment Board to develop this goal in alignment with statewide with career trajectories, education interests, and job opportunities. 

Build on state credential attainment goals by developing specific goals to close racial and geographic equity gaps. To address attainment disparities among people in various geographic regions, people of color, and New Americans, policymakers can embed geographic, racial equity, and STEM postsecondary attainment goals within state and local workforce development plans.

State Program Examples

  • Alabama

    Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation (GOEWT)

    Alabama’s Governor Ivey first established the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation (GEOWT) to help the state surpass its statewide postsecondary attainment goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the workforce by 2025. The Office then identified specific sub-population attainment goals for each special population with barriers to entering the workforce and by geographic region. These goals roll into their statewide attainment goal and are being used to target investments and market-driven program development and close postsecondary attainment gaps that exist among populations with barriers to employment and between rural and urban population.

  • Virginia

    Reorientation of Workforce System to Target Underserved Populations

    Under Governor Northam’s leadership, Virginia’s workforce development system has been reoriented to specifically target historically underserved populations and advance the cause of economic equity. The Virginia Board for Workforce Development, the state board that advises the Governor on workforce policy, reorganized its committee focus to include a substantial look at Virginia's workforce policy and programs through an equity and access lens. This business dominated advisory board is made up of 40 leaders from private industry, the Governor's cabinet, workforce training professionals and representatives from labor unions. To strengthen the partnership between each local workforce development area and their Department of Social Services district offices, the Governor awarded $1.3 million in grants to facilitate easier access the full spectrum of services aimed at increasing employability. According to the Governor, “these grants will ensure every Virginian has an opportunity to participate in our growing economy, support their family and hold better futures in the state.    

Allocate funds to initiate systems improvement to ensure continuous implementation toward shared workforce goals across Administrations. One of the major challenges states face in building a continuous lifelong learning system is funding for capacity-building across the education and workforce systems. In particular, states cite a lack of funding to build partnerships with industry, fund collaboration between state agencies, and apply for supplemental funding from external grant programs. Several states are experimenting with adding new resources to improve the ecosystem serving workers and the workforce system at-large.

State Program Examples

  • Virginia

    Governor’s Allocation of Discretionary WIOA funds

    Every state is permitted to use up to 15 percent of its WIOA Title I funds for specific statewide projects at the governor’s discretion, including systems improvement. In 2018, Governor Northam allocated $5 million of Virginia’s discretionary funds to support the Virginia Community College System in redesigning statewide career pathways to better prepare students with skills they will need for high-demand, well-paying jobs. With this funding, the Virginia Community College System has restructured almost all workforce programs to help students access in-demand skills from day one. This restructuring is first of its kind across the country and is especially applicable during times of national labor shortages. Program success is measured not by academic completion but by job placement.

Establish a multi-stakeholder collaborative, such as a state office, task force or commission, with representatives from state agencies, labor, education, technology and industry, to explore key issues related the future of work and align state activities. As of January 2020, eight states had initiated task forces or other organized efforts to explore the impacts of technology on the workforce. These partnerships are critical in helping state and local leaders develop a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities present by technology, and for developing targeted policy and regulatory responses to meet the changing needs of workers and employers.

State Program Examples

  • Colorado

    Office of the Future of Work

    Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an Executive Order in 2019 establishing the Office of the Future of Work within the state’s Department of Labor and Employment. The Office serves as the central point for the state’s efforts to respond to Colorado’s rapidly changing economy and workforce and is responsible for submitting annual recommendations to the governor. Specific areas of focus include modernizing worker benefits and protections; including exploring portable benefits capable of supporting workers in the on-demand, or ’gig’ economy; developing resources to aid individuals and businesses in managing the changes the future of work brings; and aligning resources to prepare target populations most likely to be impacted by technology.

  • Indiana

    Governor's Workforce Cabinet

    Through a combination of state legislation and a waiver from the USDOL, Indiana replaced the state’s federally-mandated workforce development board with the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet in 2018. The waiver requested a smaller and more nimble cabinet with the authority to align resources, programs and partners, more direct employer engagement and added an expressed mission to prepare Hoosiers for jobs more efficiently, effectively and quickly. The Cabinet brings together state agency leaders from K-12, postsecondary, family and social services, economic development, workforce development, and corrections—along with employers, lawmakers and community leaders.  The Governor’s Workforce Cabinet recently submitted a new WIOA plan for public comment that will serve as the Cabinet’s strategic plan, guiding action for the next several years. The plan shifts Indiana’s talent development focus from programs to people, meeting all Hoosiers where they are to provide the right fit of services and supports to improve the quality of their lives—whether they are a young adult graduating from high school, an underemployed adult who needs to skill-up for a better career, a disabled Hoosier, or someone on state assistance. The plan considers all types of Hoosiers and aligns programs to support individual needs. One of the subcommittees dedicated to advising the development of the plan is the Industry Committee. The Industry Committee will review and determine the current and future needs of the economic drivers in Indiana. This includes specific skills and credentials (industry-recognized certifications, technical certificates, associate degrees, bachelor degrees, etc.). This also includes housing, transportation, labor supply, automation, talent attraction and recruitment, and other factors that will contribute to the success of Indiana’s economy. There is a particular focus on the Future of work and will also inform the State Plan in tackling Indiana’s industry challenges. The Industry Committee will continue to convene after the plan is submitted to provide feedback regarding local- and state-level systems and processes to be updated to ensure successful implementation. This Committee will also assist with monitoring the progress of the plan.

  • Washington

    Legislature Passed a Mandate to Create a Future of Work Task Force

    In 2018, Washington became the first state to mandate the creation of a Future of Work Task Force, with accompanying state funding. 6544 SSB charged the 16-member Task Force with creating a statewide policy framework that supports a talent development pipeline and lifelong learning. To increase the capacity of the Task Force, the Workforce Board was also allocated funding for two FTEs to oversee the Future of Work Project, including developing a set of annual recommendations to the legislature.

  • California

    Executive Order to Establish Commission on the Future of Work

    Governor Newsom identified workforce preparation and equitable economic growth as a shared priority across the Administration, signing an Executive Order to create a Future of Work Commission. The order tasks the group of 22 gubernatorially appointed commissioners to, among other things, “identify policies and practices that will help California’s businesses, workers, and communities thrive economically, while responding to rapid changes in technology and workplace structures and practices.” The governor also stipulated full state agency cooperation with the Commission’s work.

  • Vermont

    Nation’s First AI Task Force

    In 2018, the Vermont Legislature passed a law requiring the creation of a fourteen-member Artificial Intelligence (AI) Task Force. Over a series of 15 meetings and public forums, the Task Force developed recommendations on the growth of Vermont’s emerging technology markets, and the use of artificial intelligence in State government. The Task Force released its report to the Final Report to the Senate Committee on Government Operations and the House Committee on Energy and Technology in January 2020.

  • New Jersey

    Future of Work Task Force

    New Jersey Governor Murphy signed in 2018 an Executive Order creating the Future of Work Task Force. In addition to industry and education partners, the Task Force is a partnership of the Governor’s Office, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, and the State’s Chief Innovation Officer. The Task Force is chaired by the Chief Innovation Officer, and is comprised of 25 state leaders across labor, industry, research, education and community organizations. One of the first actions of the Task Force was to announce a Request for Proposals soliciting original, data-driven research and analysis about the future of work in New Jersey, with a specific focus on four topics including: data on technologies impacting New Jersey, information on the populations most affected, anticipated effects on communities and transportation, and proposed opportunities to leverage technology to increase economic opportunities statewide.

Design and implement a combined planning process across key federal workforce development, education and employment programs. In 2020, states are required to submit WIOA two-year plans for 2021-23. States can elect to develop a combined plan that aligns plans, activities and use of funds for the six core WIOA programs with other key federal programs. In the current WIOA planning year, at least 15 states are submitting combined plans. When submitting these plans, states should consider prioritizing technological and digital skills resilience.

State Program Examples

  • Louisiana

    Combined State Plan

    In 2020, states are required to submit WIOA two-year plans for 2021-2023 to outline their planned delivery of programmatic resources across all WIOA programs. Louisiana prepared a relatively comprehensive WIOA 2021-2023 combined plan that aligns WIOA, Perkins V, TANF, SNAP E&T, JVSG, CSBG, SCSEP, and work programs under Section 6(d)(4) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008. Leadership for this combined state planning came from the Office of Governor Edwards.

Download The Full Guide

The State Guide for Preparing the Future Workforce Now provides details of how governors are leading public and private partners across all pathways to transform their education and workforce systems.

  • Roadmap for Systems Change

    Employ a tested set of best practices for your state.

  • See State Case Studies

    Discover what other states are doing now to prepare.

Download the Full Guide
Workforce report