Winter Workforce Policy Institute Highlights the Importance of Workforce Planning and Innovation

Last month, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) convened Governor-appointed workforce development policymakers in Washington, D.C. for the 2024 Winter Workforce Development Policy Institute. Representatives from 34 states discussed the top issues they face as they carry out their Governors’ workforce development policy agenda – with the backdrop of Governors being required to submit their strategic plans to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on March 4, 2024.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requires that Governors submit a four-year strategic plan to DOL every four years. Each session at this year’s Winter Institute emphasized  how Governors have addressed the top issues facing their states in their WIOA Plan. Session topics at the Institute included Governor-driven WIOA planning and implementation; the future of serving youth; and aligning sector partnerships and career pathways.

A Governor-Driven Workforce System

During the “Governor-Driven WIOA Planning and Implementation” session, Governors’ advisors from Alabama and Connecticut detailed the charge their Governors gave them at the outset of the WIOA planning process and how, in effect, their planning process never truly stops throughout the four-year plan period. Additionally, both speakers discussed the importance of the WIOA system in implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The speakers also covered how their states will detail their strategy for implementing these new federal investments in their WIOA Plan – an undertaking for which the NGA Center and DOL have supported states through the Workforce Strategic Planning Collaborative.

Expanding the Workforce

The challenges presented by a persistently tight labor market have reinforced Governors’ common priorities for lowering barriers to joining the workforce and leveraging sector partnerships to meet employer demand. Both strategies are integral components of states’ WIOA plans, and Governors continue to advance innovative policy solutions and service delivery practices to this end. National and state experts shared new approaches to reach and train young people with barriers to employment – including justice-involved youth, youth with disabilities, and youth formerly in foster care. Representatives from Colorado, Wyoming, and Minnesota shared how their states are aligning workforce development and education systems to develop industry-led career pathways that prepare workers and learners for in-demand jobs.

Beyond WIOA

As Governors and State Workforce Development Boards (Boards) implement their WIOA Plans, they are also exploring opportunities to set the strategic direction for workforce development policy efforts made outside the WIOA system. At the Institute, Board Chairs discussed how, in partnership with their Governors, they are aligning WIOA activities with other state and federal investments to advance the Governor’s highest priorities. Board leaders from Kentucky and Indiana shared their strategic planning efforts, outlined their processes for engaging key stakeholders, and highlighted how their states’ strategic plans allows for increased alignment between efforts made within the WIOA system and outside of it.

Issues discussed at the Institute will inform the programming offered through the NGA Center’s Workforce Development Technical Assistance Program(WDTAP) in the coming weeks and months. For more information about WDTAP or the biannual Workforce Development Policy Institutes, please contact Jack Porter at