Incentivize regional partnerships to build talent pipelines for high-growth industries. States should consider using data to identify in-demand skills sets of high-growth industries, and then conduct outreach to build regional workforce partnerships to fill essential talent pipelines. When successful, these partnerships can inform state education curricula and expand learning requirements for pre- and youth-apprenticeship programs, as well as improve the promotional outcomes of incumbent workers. Over time, these strategies can help states to develop sustainable hiring pipelines for a broad range of workers, including youth and underrepresented or low-income workers.

State Program Examples

  • Iowa

    Legislation Requiring Localized Alignment of Training and Services

    In order to promote more robust partnerships between education providers and industry, Iowa enacted S.F. 2353 in 2018. This legislation requires local workforce boards to align employment, training education and supportive services in high-demand industries.

  • Idaho

    Industry Sector Grants Program

    In 2017, former Idaho Governor Otter shifted responsibility for the state’s Workforce Development Training Fund (WDTF) to the Idaho Workforce Development Council to more effectively meet industry needs. The WDTF has been expanded to encourage industry sector and innovation grants which require partnerships among employers, training providers and community organizations to solve local workforce challenges. In addition, an outreach project category was added to the eligible uses of the WDTF to increase public awareness of and access to career education and workforce training.

  • Colorado

    NextGen Partnerships

    Colorado is home to 30 active sector partnerships that engage employers of all sizes across 79% of the state to increase local alignment between secondary, postsecondary and workforce programs. As of 2019, the Colorado Workforce Development Council reported that 83% of sector partnerships experienced joint or shared decision-making across membership organizations, leading to an increase in the number of individuals entering high-demand career pathways throughout the state.

  • Texas

    Created the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative

    In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed transformative school finance legislation in House Bill 3 to reform education and shape the future of the Texas workforce. To fully implement the vision of House Bill 3 in 2020, Governor Abbott charged the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative to marshal the resources toward streamlining implementation of the legislation and identifying solutions for long-term workforce needs across the state. This builds on the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative, which was established in 2016, when Governor Abbott established the initiative and tasked the Commissioners of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to work collectively together toward five objectives to develop stronger links between education and industry. At that time, Agency Commissioners together held regional meetings across Texas with the public, as well as leaders from education, industry, government, and nonprofits to understand the state’s workforce needs at a regional level. The direction of this partnership from the governor has since created a strong alliance between the agencies.

  • Oregon

    High-Tech Employment Partnership

    The Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) is the primary convener of high-tech employers in Oregon and partners with the Lane Workforce Partnership, the designated local workforce investment board. This partnership creates a direct line of communication between tech employers and the workforce board in order to better respond to the evolving workforce needs of the local tech sector. This partnership has led to increased local investment in scholarships for high-tech education and on-the job training contracts with high-tech employers. To build the workforce of the future, states and local workforce boards should consider ways to better represent the interests of the tech sector in order to better inform investment in training and other workforce development programs.

  • Tennessee

    Tennessee Talent Exchange

    The Tennessee Talent Exchange is a partnership established in 2020 between Hospitality TN, Tennessee Retail and the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Association. The exchange helps place workers displaced from the hospitality industry as a result of COVID-19 into positions in grocery, retail and logistics industries through an online platform called Jobs4TN.

  • California

    High Road Training Partnerships

    The High Road Training Partnerships (HRTP) initiative is a $10demonstration project by the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) to advance both upward mobility and economic competitiveness by developing industry training partnerships with “high road” employers that offer quality jobs. The CWDB defines a quality job as one that provides family-sustaining wages, health benefits, pension programs, advancement opportunities and collective worker input, and that is stable, predictable, safe and free of discrimination. The HRTP Roadmap to Job Quality also articulates the role of workers, employers, worker organizations, and communities in advancing job quality. 

Communicate to employers the return on investment of incumbent worker training as an evidence-based method for workforce development. Although many states maintain strong partnerships with employers, the piloting of new training programs can be costly barriers for some employers to engage in upskilling their workforces. As many employers are facing rapid changes to their workplaces, states may wish to demonstrate the potential value of partnership to engage employers more meaningfully. To quantify the value of these training opportunities, return-on-investment (ROI) studies may be useful, in addition to social marketing campaigns targeted toward employers and learners.

State Program Examples

  • Oregon

    Apprenticeship Return on Investment Calculator

    Registered Apprenticeship is an important investment with costs and benefits to potential employers. Oregon recognized an opportunity to communicate the value of this training and developed an online tool to help employers estimate the potential costs and benefits of employing apprenticeships. The tool is run by The State Employment Department and was funded by a grant from the USDOL Employment and Training Administration. States may wish to look toward cost-sharing with one another by crowdsourcing their regional data into one online platform and sharing with their constituents through public media campaigns.

  • Maryland

    Youth Apprenticeship Ambassador Program

    The Maryland Youth Apprenticeship Ambassador Program was launched in December 2018 by the Maryland Department of Labor. This program highlights youth apprentices and the businesses hiring youth apprentices as Youth Apprenticeship Ambassadors to raise awareness about apprenticeship opportunities and motivate other employers and youth to participate. Ambassadors are selected by the Secretary of Labor for their commitment to the growth of youth apprenticeship and agree to support outreach activities and events within their community to raise awareness and engage stakeholders on the value of engaging youth in meaningful on the job training activities and related instruction.

Help employers navigate the workforce development system and the development of high-quality training programs. While navigators exist in American Jobs Centers to help jobseekers, employers often have less information on how to best partner with state and education partners to fill their talent pipelines. Some states have developed outreach programs to help employers build partnerships with the education community, specifically in the form of dual enrollment, work-based learning and apprenticeship programs. Other states have begun to introduce Employer Navigator programs to help employers navigate federal and state workforce development programs. To build in-demand career pathways for students and adult workers, states should consider ways to help employers develop and sustain training programs that align with statewide workforce goals.

State Program Examples

  • Minnesota


    When the Minnesota Legislature established its training initiative, Private Investment, Public Education, Labor and Industry Experience (PIPELINE), its first step was to organize stakeholders into Industry Councils to put employer voices at the center of program development. The Department of Labor and Industry convened an Industry Council for priority industries and conducted three meetings between August 2013 and November 2014. This process helped the state to recognize that while industry representatives valued their role in validating competencies for identified occupations, they had limited information on how to participate in training programs that aligned with statewide workforce goals. In 2015, the state used this information to expand the PIPELINE project to offer Dual-Training Consulting to disseminate training resources for employers and employees, including information on program development, grants and a statewide network of industry PIPELINE partners.

  • Colorado

    CareerWise Colorado

    Colorado has gained national recognition for its leadership in creating a modern youth apprenticeship program that aims to engage 10% of Colorado’s high school youth in apprenticeship. CareerWise Colorado was created by Executive Order in 2015 and endorsed  by the state Business Experiential-Learning Commission to serve as the intermediary between schools, students and employers to guide stakeholders through the apprenticeship development process. Participating students complete an apprenticeship over three years which results in in-depth training skills as measured by a set of recognized credentials upon graduation. Employers see benefits from a higher return on investment than a traditional internship model since productivity increases over three years.   To establish and strengthen CareerWise, the Colorado General Assembly enacted the following enabling policies: Career pathways: HB 13-1165 and HB 15-1274 required community colleges, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Higher Education, the Colorado Workforce Development Council, and the Department of Education, to design accessible career pathways in high-demand fields such as manufacturing and healthcare. Concurrent enrollment: granted high schools flexibility for students to count apprenticeship and internship programs as credit and established a tuition assistance program for students in CTE certificate programs. Guaranteed transfer: required statewide degree transfer agreements for transfer of associate degrees from one state IHE to another. Competency-based learning: revised the state’s graduation requirements, putting in place competency-based options, which hinge on students’ mastery of content rather than seat time. Incentives for experiential learning: HB 16-1289 encourage high school students to successfully complete career development course work. HB 19-216 allows participating districts to count the students enrolled in the experiential programs outlined in the district’s plan as full-time students, regardless of the actual amount of time the students may spend in the classroom further serving as an incentive for districts to participate in work based learning opportunities. Building on past success, the legislature is poised to pass HB 20-1002 which will streamline the state’s approach to prior learning credit recognizing that work based learning carries not only skills but should also count towards credit towards higher education degree attainment. CareerWise then began by working with the legislature to articulate the first tier of career pathways available to students based on industry demand: advanced manufacturing, information technology, financial services, business operations and health care. Between 2017 and 2019, the Colorado program successfully scaled from 25 participating schools and 40 employers to 50 participating schools working with over 100 employers statewide.

  • Kentucky

    Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY-FAME)

    Originally launched by Toyota, the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) is a collaborative of employers who participate in and support Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathways at more than 250 companies across 12 states. In Kentucky, a partnership of regional manufacturers implements dual track, apprenticeship-style training that creates a pipeline of highly skilled workers. Upon completion, these workers receive an Advanced Manufacturing Technician certification debt-free. To capitalize on the success of the program, former Governor Steve Beshear announced $24 million in General Fund–supported bonds to build an advanced manufacturing training center in partnership with local Bluegrass Community and Technical College. This leadership signaled the importance of collaboration with industry partners to increase opportunities for students and workers. 

  • Nevada

    Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) Partnership with Tesla

    The Nevada Office of Workforce Innovation (OWINN) helped to establish a partnership between Truckee Meadows Community College and Tesla that has allowed them to work together to develop an apprenticeship program that allows community college students to engage in on-the-job training in high-tech occupations. TMCC is responsible for the administrative components of this program and the technical instruction and student supports. Tesla helps to inform the curriculum and provides relevant on-the-job training.  In addition to helping to establish the partnership, OWINN has also played a role in advertising the apprenticeship program. Governor Sisolak indicated this type of partnership as a priority in Nevada by appropriating $4 million in FY 2020 to support educational institutions that are partnering with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities. To help build talent pipelines, states should consider ways to play a more prominent role as intermediary between regional education institutions and well-resourced state employers.

  • Minnesota

    Minnesota Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Project (MnAMP) Learn, Work, Earn Initiative

    The MnAMP Learn, Work, Earn Initiative includes a network of twelve colleges and two additional training centers across the state that offer a standardized core curriculum partnered by employer-driven apprenticeship in advanced manufacturing.  Participants in the program earn stackable, industry-recognized credentials at an educational institution while earning a wage and participating in on-the-job training in a high-demand, high-wage manufacturing occupation. This program serves primarily Trade Adjustment Assistance eligible workers and veterans and is funded through a TAACCCT grant. States can leverage federal grants to bolster partnerships between educational institutions and industry to prepare workers for careers in high-demand industries through industry-driven work-based-learning opportunities.

  • Connecticut

    Removing Barriers for Employer Engagement in the Talent Pipeline

    In 2019, Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 4 requiring the Governor’s Workforce Council to assess and recommend ways for the state to “remove barriers for employers to engage as partners in the creation of a talent pipeline they need to be successful, such as train-to-hire, and upskilling initiatives for incumbent workers”. This assessment is intended to allow training programs to be as responsive to employer needs as possible by engaging employers as partners. States should consider whether they have regulations that prevent or disincentivize employer engagement in any part of the talent pipeline development process. As part of its analysis, states may wish to engage a broad group of stakeholders including representatives from local workforce boards, the Chamber of Commerce, CTE Advisory Committees, labor unions, institutes of higher education, community colleges, and service providers.

  • Idaho

    Talent Pipeline Management Initiative

    The Idaho Workforce Development Council has implemented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management Initiative statewide. Through this initiative, employers are developing and resourcing training pathways and are encouraged to develop competency-based job descriptions based on experience rather than credentials obtained. This helps ensure workers with a wider range of educational backgrounds have access to good jobs.

  • Nebraska

    Developing Youth Talent Initiative

    Launched by the Governor in 2015, Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI) introduces middle school students to careers in industries such as manufacturing, information technology, engineering and healthcare. Each year, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) awards $250,000 in DYTI grants to for-profit, Nebraska-based companies, such as Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corporation, USA; CLAAS Omaha; and Nucor Detailing Center, to partner with area school districtsTogether, these consortiums implement programs to inform, engage, and inspire seventh- and eighth-grade students to explore careers in high demand throughout Nebraska. 

Create incentives for employers to invest in training their current workers with skills needed for the future. Many states provide tax incentives for employers who employ apprentices to promote private-sector investment in training. These incentives often alleviate some need for public training programs and allow more workers to access training that is directly tied to a specific career path. Governors and states could consider building on the success of these tax credit programs to expand incentives to specific, high-tech, high-demand industries.

State Program Examples

  • Ohio


    In September of 2019, the Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation launched TechCred to give businesses the chance to upskill current and future employees in today’s technology-infused economy. The program reimburses employers up to $2,000 when an employee earns a short-term, industry-recognized, and technology-focused credential. After three application periods, 500 unique Ohio employers have been approved for reimbursement, which will result in the earning of up to 4,232 technology-focused credentials by Ohio employees.

  • Illinois

    Apprenticeship Tax Credit

    In 2020 Illinois began a new apprenticeship tax credit that covers up to $3,500 of qualified education expenses incurred by employers on behalf of a qualifying apprentice. To increase equity, an additional $1,500 credit may be awarded if the company’s principal place of business is in an underserved area or the qualifying apprentice resides in an underserved area.

  • Connecticut

    On-the-job Training Credit

    Connecticut employers may be credited 5% of their investment in on-the-job training thanks to a 2019 worker training tax credit.

  • Montana

    Apprenticeship Tax Credit

    Montana employers may apply for a tax credit for every new position hired where the worker is registered as an apprentice through the Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program. The number of qualifying new hires is unlimited and is available to employers who file Montana income tax. Employers are encouraged to hire job seekers from a variety of underemployed populations, including SNAP participants, veterans, former felons, WIOA participants, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

  • Indiana

    Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grants

    Indiana's Workforce Ready Grants are facilitated through NextLevelJobs. These grants cover tuition and mandatory fees for eligible high-value certificate programs at Ivy Tech Community College, Vincennes University, or other approved providers. The grant is available for two years and covers up to the number of credits required by the qualifying program. The qualifying high-value certificate programs were selected based on employer demand, wages, job placements and program completion rate. These programs are aligned with Indiana’s highest demand sectors:   Advanced Manufacturing Building & Construction Health Sciences IT & Business Services Transportation & Logistics   Another aspect of Next Level Jobs is Employer Training Grants. Under these grants, employers may qualify for reimbursement of up to $5,000 per employee trained and retained for six months. Each employer may qualify for up to $50,000 per employer. Employers must submit an application, satisfy eligibility requirements and receive and sign a formal agreement obligating grant funding. Employers must offer occupational skills training directly correlated with in-demand jobs in our six high-growth job fields (Advanced Manufacturing, Agriculture, IT & Business Services, Building & Construction, Health & Life Sciences, and Transportation & Logistics). The training must be greater than 40 hours and ideally result in a stackable certificate or credential upon completion (onboarding training and informal job shadowing does not qualify). Additionally, the employer must ensure a wage gain at the completion of training for current employees trained to new skill sets; there is no current wage requirement for new hires trained. Employer Training Grants receive $20 million in funding through the state’s budget.   As Indiana endeavors to increase the number of Hoosiers with the skills to move into middle-skill jobs, state programming will be complimented with SNAP 50/50 funds. The state will allocate $500,000 of Employer Training Grant state funding for upskilling SNAP or TANF recipients, augmenting that funding with tuition reimbursements of $250,000 through SNAP 50/50 for supportive services and additional training for SNAP recipients. A dedicated $750,000 in blended state and federal funding apportioned toward increasing access to advanced opportunities for low-income workers will help benefit the state and employers. So far, nearly 11,000 Hoosiers have earned a certificate and more than 900 employers have benefited from Next Level Jobs.

  • Mississippi

    Employee Training Tax Credit 

    In order to incentivize advanced training for incumbent, low- and middle-skill workers, Mississippi employers receive a 50 percent tax credit for the costs of training an employee, up to $2,500 per employee per year.

  • California

    Employment Training Panel

    Since 1982, the Employment Training Panel has reimbursed employers for incumbent worker training. A recent evaluation found the program had significant positive impacts on employee wages, labor productivity, and the number of employees, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses. States could use programs such as this to help stimulate the recovery of small- and medium-sized firms and improve access to economic opportunities for workers.

  • Indiana

    Next Level Jobs

    Indiana's Next Level Jobs program consists of the Workforce Ready Training Grant, which award students and employers funding to participate in or provide free short-term training in high-paying, in-demand industries. The Rapid Recovery for a Better Future initiative temporarily expands Next Level Jobs using $75 million of federal CARES Act funds. The expansion enables the Workforce Ready Grant to increase financial support for students up to $10,000, expand program eligibility and allow two- and four-year degree holders to participate. The expansion enables the Employer Training Grant to increase the amount eligible for reimbursement up to $100,000 per employer and dedicates at least $5 million to minority-, veteran-, and women-owned businesses.

  • New York

    Pathways Pledge

    New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, during his 2021 State of the State Address, announced a proposal to create a Pathways Pledge for New York State Employers to foster more inclusive workforces and provide more workforce development opportunities. The pledge commits both public and private-sector employers to reforming their talent recruitment, investment, and promotion policies to help close equity gaps in employment, wages, and access to opportunity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixteen companies initially made the pledge, affecting over 120,000 workers in New York, and the state aims to triple those commitments in the next year. Key efforts of this initiative include promoting pathways for underrepresented populations in key industries and providing opportunities for upskilling that could lead to promotions for incumbent workers. The Pledge builds on Governor Cuomo's progress in advancing workforce development in New York State, including the existing $175Workforce Development Initiative. 

  • New Jersey


    In January 2021, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) announced $3.5M in funding through the UPSKILL: NJ Incumbent Worker Training Grant to encourage employers to offer advanced training to existing workers. The funds will be competitively awarded to employers to reimburse up to 50 percent of the cost of training incumbent, frontline employees to meet current and future occupational skill requirements of high-wage, middle- and high-skill jobs. 

Build the capacity of state and local workforce investment boards to adequately represent and meet the evolving needs of industry. The state evaluates the effectiveness of state and local workforce boards, and then implements a plan to ensure that at-risk industries are represented and that boards have capacity to meet the evolving needs of the labor market.

State Program Examples

  • Connecticut

    Executive Order to Modernize the State Workforce Council

    Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 4 in 2019 to replace the state workforce investment board with the Governor’s Workforce Council to improve state coordination among business, education and labor leaders and better represent the evolving needs of industry in policy development.

  • Indiana

    DOL Waiver to Establish Governor’s Workforce Cabinet

    Through a combination of state legislation and a federal waiver from the USDOL, Indiana established the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet in 2018. 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 Cabinet’s mission is to address current and future education and employment needs of both individuals and employers, strengthen Indiana’s economy by integrating and aligning state and federal resources, and ensure a talent-driven education and workforce system.

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