Remove obstacles to participating in work and learning by closing gaps in access to medical and mental health care, including for those recovering from substance use disorders. The state builds an ecosystem where every individual, including those with disabilities and a history of substance abuse, are able to realize financial self-sufficiency, and to recapture the dignity of being a working member of society.

State Program Examples

  • Montana

    Medicaid Expansion

    In 2019, Montana Governor Bullock signed into law HB 0658, thereby expanding the state’s Medicaid program to serve nearly 100,000 low income adults. The expansion will cost the state approximately $16 million over the next two years, which will be paid for by a new tax on Montana hospitals.

  • New Hampshire

    Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative 

    New Hampshire found that 66 percent of the costs of untreated addiction in the Granite State were due to lost productivity and absenteeism at work. In response, Governor Sununu led the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative to incentivize employers to provide support to New Hampshire residents in recovery. The state secured a U.S. Department of Labor grant aimed at helping those in recovery reenter the workplace, and as a match, allocated $1 million to educate employers in evidence-based practices that demonstrably reduce substance misuse in the workplace, offer specialized training for human resources personnel, and promote the hiring of those undergoing treatment. The State Workforce Innovation Board also granted funds to the initiative and served as navigators for local employers to serve workers in recovery. Other states have developed similar programs and applied their Vocational Rehabilitation funds to serve those in recovery and reentering the workforce.

Mitigate permanent displacement from the workforce for those with family obligations. In six out of every ten two-parent households with children under twelve, both adults are employed, and one in two working parents has passed up a job opportunity due to family obligations. For these families, child care remains an essential support to ensuring that both parents are able to maintain, and succeed, in the local workforce. In 2019, governors from 49 states collectively announced $2.9 billion in new early education investments. In addition to direct investments to increase per pupil spending, other options for governors to encourage quality affordable family care include: (a) calling on employers to define best practices and commit to action; (b) working with the legislature to pass paid family leave and paid sick leave; (c) modeling best practices in the public workforce and with state contractors; and (d) braiding federal funds (such as Perkins V and Child Care Development Block Grants) to support family care needs. Although employer tax credits have been a popular policy in some states, research indicates that these policies do not lead to widespread changes in business practices because participation is employer-dependent and are more likely to benefit higher-earning employees. In the age of technology disruption, states should take action by passing inclusive policies which offer all families, including those playing caregiving roles, the opportunities to remain in the labor market despite family obligations. State leaders have a unique position to develop bold solutions which offer affordable family care that benefit the families in their states and to serve as a testing ground for improving federal policies.

State Program Examples

  • Oregon

    Twelve Weeks of Paid Family Leave

    In 2019, Governor Brown signed into law HB 2005, creating the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Program. FAMLI requires employers to offer workers with twelve weeks of paid leave, including 100 percent wage replacement for minimum wage workers with benefits capped at 120% of the state average weekly wage. The new law also allows individuals the ability to define their own family, enabling those who serve as caregivers to also receive benefits. Funding for the FAMLI Program is provided by a payroll tax and is administered by the Director of the Employment Department. Employers are required to contribute 40 percent of the total rate set, with the remaining to be deducted from employee wages. Employers with fewer than 25 employees are exempt from their contribution.

  • Washington

    Child Care Access Now Act (CAN Act)

    In 2019, Washington’s legislature passed the CAN Act with bipartisan support. The act is intended to create a comprehensive state vision for state-level child care reform that simultaneously addresses child care affordability, quality, and workforce compensation. The Child Care Collaborative Task Force will identify policies that would achieve the state’s vision and make recommendations to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. Other measures passed in 2019 include allowing participants in Working Connections to count participation in workforce training programs as meeting their work requirements to qualify for child care.

  • Vermont

    Child Care Program Financial Support for Providers

    In 2020, Governor Phil Scott created a fund to provide childcare for essential workers and ensure childcare providers can pay their bills—including employee wages, rent and utilities—during the pandemic. Using a combination of state and federal funding, the fund the revenue childcare providers normally receive from families and publicly-funded childcare subsidies. This dedicated childcare stabilization fund ensures that when the economy reopens, parents will have the childcare they relied on before the pandemic. Launched in April 2020, the program covers 50 percent of a family’s weekly tuition or subsidy copayment and continues to pay childcare subsidies.

  • Iowa

    Childcare Challenge Fund

    Iowa Workforce Development administers a Child Care Challenge Fund to incentivize regional and community projects that increase the number of child care slots in local communities. The fund also supports the development, renovation or rehabilitation of child care facilities by awarding competitive grants to support community and regional initiatives. The selection process prioritizes funding for collaborative applications that propose new, cutting-edge ideas as well as proven strategies. 

Encourage postsecondary education providers to offer wraparound supports for students at greatest risk of dropping out. The state and higher education develop and deliver services to address the many factors that can make it difficult for some students to consistently engage in school, such as limited access to housing, child care, food access, transportation and academic support.

State Program Examples

  • California

    Credit-Bearing “Stretch” Courses

    California State University (CSU) has begun replacing noncredit remedial prerequisite courses with credit-bearing, “stretch” courses that come with additional tutoring/mentoring support. In 2019 CSU began using high-school grades, rather than standardized placement tests, to assess students’ developmental needs and place them in appropriate courses.  This approach allows California students to forgo some non-credit bearing remedial work and start earning credit when they arrive on campus while receiving the support that they need to be successful in their coursework.

  • Georgia

    Georgia State University Forecasts Service Needs of Students

    In education, learning analytics fueled by student data is used to develop early warning systems to help learning institutions identify when a student might need extra support to succeed in school. Georgia State University has introduced the use of predictive data analysis to forecast what students may need in advising, course scheduling, and financial stability and wellness. This information allows the university to be proactive in addressing student needs and to be prepared to support students to encourage consistent enrollment and academic success.  This information also allows for these services to be intentionally targeted at students who will benefit from them the most. Some of the changes that this approach has inspired include accommodating working students by offering more courses at night and introducing financial literacy training for students. As states seek to implement similar models to increase persistence and graduation rates and decrease degree costs, they should consider opt-out policies to protect student privacy and proactively develop policies that minimize algorithmic bias.

  • Wisconsin

    Regional Apprenticeship Coordinators

    In 1999, the Wisconsin legislature passed a bill funding regional apprenticeship coordinators to increase access to work-based learning opportunities for all students. Regional partnerships comprised of one or more school districts, public agencies, non-profits, business leaders and other entities are invited to apply annually for grants up to $900 per student, which must be matched at 50% to fund the implementation and coordination of local youth apprenticeship programs including local and regional youth apprenticeship coordinators. These coordinators are responsible for conducting outreach to educators, families and students youth apprenticeship opportunities, building employer momentum for apprenticeship in the state, and help match students and regional employers in 11 high-demand career clusters. In the 2018 – 2019 academic year, roughly 3,680 employers and 5,100 students from 394 high schools participated in the program. This program has been recognized as a model for serving students with disabilities and at-risk youth.

  • Rhode Island

    Rhode Island Reconnect

    In early 2020, the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner launched Rhode Island Reconnect (RI Reconnect) to connect participants with educational navigators who help them set goals and guide them through the process of returning to school or job training. When COVID-19 led to significant increases in unemployment, the Governor’s Workforce Board, which sits within the Department of Labor and Training, identified RI Reconnect as a promising model to build upon to help connect people with the resources and support they need to succeed in training they need to reenter the labor market as part of Back to Work RI.

Offer those incarcerated opportunities to learn technology skills they need to successfully transition back into the labor market. One in four formerly incarcerated people who are looking for work cannot find a job, even as the national unemployment rate is less than 4 percent (PPI 2018). Even for those who do find work, jobs are often precarious and low-wage (Brookings 2018). States are taking action to help connect the formerly incarcerated to the services they need, to help reintegrate people into working society.

State Program Examples

  • Multi-State

    The Last Mile (TLM)

    The Last Mile is a non-profit that works with the incarcerated in California to train the incarcerated on coding and entrepreneurial skills. Thus far, the recidivism rate for graduates of TLM is zero.

  • North Carolina

    Work Release Training Programs for Inmates

    North Carolina allows eligible inmates at some minimum-security prisons to pursue on-the-job training via a work release program at local businesses. Through this program inmates are allowed to leave the prison facility for the duration of the workday. All participants are paid at least minimum wage and wages may be used to pay restitution and fines, family support, release transportation costs, and for savings upon release. This program is operated through the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and is in line with the state’s reentry action plan.

Develop tools which help individuals gain access to labor market information (LMI), education and training programs and career advising. Many workers in the United States do not use traditional workforce centers to find employment and increasingly rely on internet tools to fulfill their job searches. While many state departments of labor host job sites, these resources often lack tools to guide users towards jobs with high-growth opportunity, or toward information about how to access training required to enter high-demand industries. To address these challenges, states can leverage relationships with employers and training providers to compile robust cross-sector data and invest in the development of user-friendly interfaces to interact with labor market information. States should also consider the critical role that career counseling and coaching can play in helping individuals navigate the labor market over their lifetimes. Several states have begun to develop more robust counseling programs to ensure that workers have the information they need to make decisions that will benefit their careers.

State Program Examples

  • Indiana

    Markle Foundation’s Skillful Coaching Corps

    In 2019, Markle launched the Skillful Coaching Corps program in Indiana, an 8-month training program which offers career coaching training to career counselors serving students, dislocated workers, veterans, and first-time job-seekers. Skillful is also working with Indiana employers to help them think beyond degrees and credentials to express and advertise for the skills and competencies they really want and need from potential employees. The Skillful Network invites states to invest in and create the infrastructure to provide targeted professional development for trusted leaders in their communities to gain the knowledge and skills that they need to provide their clients with high-quality, up-to-date labor and training information, including how technology may influence opportunities for growth over time. States interested in this model could facilitate similar training through community colleges, workforce centers or school districts.

  • Arkansas

    BeProBeProud Mobile Workforce Workshop

    With nearly a quarter of the current skilled professionals are at or near retirement age in Arkansas, the BeProBeProud initiative was launched in 2016 by the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Trucking Association and the Association of General Contractors to promote career opportunities in the skilled trades. The initiative now operates a Mobile Workforce Workshop from a 53-foot double trailer featuring simulated experiences from twelve occupations in high demand across Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson has noted that since the project began touring schools, technical centers, and employers to share information about industry training opportunities, the state’s high school graduation rate has increased. The initiative was started with philanthropic funds and now operates with support from private industry and from several state agencies. States could consider scaling this type of mobile program to help students in rural communities gain access to learning opportunities, in addition to sharing valuable labor market information about trade careers.

  • North Carolina

    Navigator Platform for Work-based Learning

    North Carolina’s “Navigator is a platform where employers post work-based learning opportunities that they provide for educators, counselors and job coaches to search.  This tool was developed through a partnership with the Governor’s Office, Fidelity Investments and the North Carolina Business Committee for Education. The Navigator provides a central location for work-based learning information to help make students and workers of all ages aware of training opportunities and the types of skills that are in high-demand from local employers. States can provide digital spaces where employers and training providers can add up-to-date opportunities and where workers and students can easily search for opportunities that match their specific needs and interests.

  • North Dakota

    Labor Market Information Dashboard

    The Job Service North Dakota features interactive dashboards that provide users with personalized labor market information that allows them to explore career prospects based on industry, geography, education and desired earnings.  Through this tool users can find specific job openings that fit specified criteria or more general information on current and projected openings and earning potential within specific industries and occupations.

  • Multi-State

    Launch My Career

    The American Institutes for Research (AIR), with funding from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, has developed Launch My Career, an interactive tool for states that individuals and institutions can use to learn about the return on investment of specific higher education degrees and programs. This tool helps individuals to understand the career opportunities in their state, as well as educational program information such as related skills, time to degree, and average first year wages for graduates.

  • Virginia

    Career Works Referral Portal

    Underpinning the Virginia Career Works Referral Portal is the new Workforce Data Trust. This first in its kind, cloud-based technology solution forms a secure bridge across legacy case management systems, allowing applications and analysts to relate and access data from multiple agencies in real-time. This new capacity has revealed the full scale of the workforce system’s collective impact, catalyzing a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement across previously siloed operations. Virginia is a national leader in using new affordable technologies to connect Virginians to all the workforce serves they need. This is the second of two essential tools to enable the Commonwealth in the “age of disruption” to assist Virginians employed in vulnerable jobs respond to changing work patterns.

  • New Jersey

    NJ Careers

    The New Jersey Office of Innovation, in partnership with Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, launched NJ Careers, a digital coaching service that provides day to day job search strategy and in-platform practice of job search techniques, while also connecting job seekers with support services including health insurance, childcare, housing assistance, transportation, food assistance, and mental health care. To promote participation, the state launched an outreach campaign in partnership with community organizations, faith-based communities, and local governments.

  • Ohio

    Ohio to Work

    The Ohio to Work program is an innovative, multiagency effort is led by JobsOhio (Ohio’s economic development corporation), the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and Development Services Agency. Through Ohio to Work, JobsOhio invests in and implements technological enhancements in institutions that serve jobseekers, like OhioMeansJobs Centers. These investments increase staff capacity to provide one-on-one career coaching, advising and individualized assessment for jobseekers. Ohio to Work began as a pilot in Cleveland to target those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including Black and Latino communities. To measure the success of this program, JobsOhio is tracking the total number of people served, the number of people enrolled in job training programs and the number of people who are placed in jobs with employers. JobsOhio will use information collected by the pilot to scale these jobseekers services in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

  • Alabama

    Dashboard for Alabamians to Visualize Income Determinations

    The Office of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, launched a first-in-nation career tool that includes a benefits cliff calculator within the state workforce development career path planner. The Dashboard for Alabamians to Visualize Income Determinations (DAVID) will help individuals understand which career pathways will help them achieve self-sufficiency and overcome the potential loss of public assistance based on their income, region, occupation and family dynamics.

  • Arkansas

    Ready for Life

    In January 2021, Governor Asa Hutchinson allocated $14.7M in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds in support of Ready for Life, a partnership with the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Division of Workforce Services, K-12, and institutions of higher education. The Ready for Life initiative is aimed at individuals who want to improve their skills or change careers and explore employment dataThrough the Ready for Life online platform, users can explore careers, build a resume, view popular jobs in you’re their area, learn about local companies and take online training to learn high-demand skills. The goal is to make it easier for employees and employers to find each other, as well as offer business leaders a quick snapshot of the state of the employee pool in Arkansas as they recruit talent.

  • Texas

    ADVi Virtual Advising

    The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) developed a virtual advising system, accessible by text message chatbot named ADVi – short for “adviser” – which uses artificial intelligence to provide on-demand support to Texans looking to attend or return to higher education. Through this platform, students or prospective students can ask questions about college 24/7 via text message, be connected to virtual support from advisors beyond what ADVi can provide, receive messages about key college access milestones and information to help with applications, planning and financial aid. The goal of the Virtual Advising Project is to help ensure more Texans have the information they need to access higher education and complete their certificates or degrees at Texas colleges and universities. This project supports THECB's goal of having 60% of adults aged 25-34 hold a postsecondary credential by 2030.  

Encourage employers to offer flexible work arrangements or paid leave so that workers have time to participate in lifelong learning. The state incentivizes employers to offer flexible scheduling arrangements or employer-supported leave to employees (permanent, probationary or trainee) to participate in job- or career-related study for in-demand skills.

State Program Examples

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Mitigate the displacement of vulnerable workers by encouraging employers to offer wrap-around services that promote retention and job quality. Too often, a lack of child care, poor health, unreliable transportation and acute need for emergency financial assistance represent significant barriers to maintaining employment, leading to lower wage work and fewer opportunities for advancement. Automation threatens to displace lower skilled workers, and governors will need to place an emphasis on the value of high job quality, including ensuring every worker has their foundational needs met. To protect these workers, some states have responded by working closely with employers to offer on-site supportive services and financial assistance to all employees.

State Program Examples

  • Iowa

    Employer Innovation Fund

    In 2018, Governor Reynolds announced the Employer Innovation Fund, a $400,000 employer matching grant designed to strengthen the regional talent pipeline and achieve the states postsecondary attainment goal. The Innovation Fund prioritizes investments in helping employers carry out solutions to help their employees achieve training and education in high-demand occupations, including expansion of work-based learning opportunities, targeted outreach to underrepresented populations, and wrap-around support programs. Annually, the Governor announces a request for proposals from employers, community leaders and other stakeholders to implement a creative solution to their local workforce needs. Applicants are eligible to receive up to $50,000 from funds appropriated to Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) and must match grant funds with funds raised privately.

  • Vermont

    Working Bridges Employer Collaborative

    To improve job retention, the United Way of Chittenden County convened “Working Bridges”, an employer-led collaborative that funds on-site coordinators to provide supportive services to employees, including education and social service referrals, tax preparation, and transportation. These coordinators are shared across the collaborative’s employer locations and are responsible for developing financial education workshops and ensuring that employment policies including work and leave policies are aligned with the needs of local employees. Working Bridges has also partnered with local banks to develop a savings mechanism for lower income workers, which deduct from future paychecks a monthly amount which receives a match from employers to help employees cover emergency expenses. The United Way funds the program and requires that collaborative employers contribute a match to support the resource coordinator. States and local workforce boards could consider incentivizing these types of offerings by introducing a tax credit similar to the Workforce Training Credit, which credits all matched funds and employer fees to participate in the collaborative.

  • Virginia

    Grants to Facilitate Employability for 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. To strengthen the partnership between each local workforce development area and their Department of Social Services district offices, in 2019, the Governor also 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.

  • Massachusetts

    Reinventing Work Initiative

    The Reinventing Work Initiative (RWI) is a collaboration between the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Commonwealth Corporation, Massachusetts’ quasi-public workforce development agency within the Executive Office for Labor and Workforce Development to advance employer-driven job quality improvements. The RWI defines job quality as a “bundle of characteristics beyond wage related to paid employment,” including consistency of hours, employer-provided benefits, commute, autonomy, worker voice and potential for advancement. The goal of the initiative is to create a sustainable approach to enhancing job quality by engaging employers to change how they think about their role in promoting job quality.

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