10 States Awarded Grants to Accelerate COVID-19 Workforce Recovery Efforts

Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington Named to Inaugural Workforce Innovation Network Cohort

Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington have been selected as the inaugural cohort of states in the Workforce Innovation Network, the National Governors Association (NGA) and Cognizant U.S. Foundation announced today. Each state will receive a grant to improve employment outcomes in response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, connecting job seekers to training, education, job opportunities and essential support services.

The Workforce Innovation Network is designed to help states build capacity for near-term innovation and longer-term strategies to prepare their workforces for a post-COVID-19 economy. The network serves as a nonpartisan learning and action collaborative for state leaders who have demonstrated strong commitments to building a resilient workforce. In this first round of grants from the Workforce Innovation Fund, states will receive:

  • Support developing a state action plan and policy recommendations to develop or scale innovations that increase employment and deliver stronger workforce outcomes;
  • Up to $100,000 in grant funding to support personnel and project coordination to carry out state innovations; and
  • Virtual or in-person site visits and regular coaching calls from NGA Center staff, as well as national experts and consultants to meet individual state needs and priorities.

To receive the grants and qualify as a member of the network, states submitted proposals focused on the creation of new, unified virtual service delivery platforms, digital inclusion and skill development strategies, and equitable access to high-quality work opportunities via the adoption of new state job quality and self-sufficiency standards.

“Even as Governors work to defeat COVID-19 in their states and territories by making vaccines available to millions, they recognize that the effects of the pandemic on their workforces are far-reaching and, in some cases, may be permanent,” said Timothy Blute, director of the NGA Center. “The effects of the pandemic have been disparate across sectors of society and the workforce, necessitating partnerships among governmental leaders, business and civic communities.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, January job gains in professional and business services and in both public and private education were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing. These latest trends underscore the importance of breaking down traditional silos in training and service delivery and working collaboratively to advance an equitable and inclusive recovery, particularly for workers in sectors most negatively affected by COVID-19.

“Governors have already begun to address high unemployment with innovative policies and practices to more rapidly connect job seekers with the services and supports needed for success in the workforce,” said Kristen Titus, executive director of Cognizant U.S. Foundation. “These Workforce Innovation Fund grants will help the states in this inaugural cohort build on early innovations and expand capacity to coordinate cross-agency economic recovery efforts.”

In the coming months, the network will gather Governors, states and external partners to learn more about how states are aligning their reskilling, reemployment and recovery strategies with longer-term trends and the future of work.

Following are quotes from Governors about their states’ selections:

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey: “Alabama is thrilled to be among the states chosen to participate in the NGA Workforce Innovation Network as Workforce Innovation Fund grantee. We will utilize this opportunity to launch the Alabama Skills-Based Recovery Initiative, which will focus on providing rapid reskilling and a continuum of supportive services for Alabamians who are reentering the workforce after being displaced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Skill-Based Recovery Initiative will also provide technical assistance for employers on developing skills-based job descriptions. This initiative will help Alabama’s workforce emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever.”

Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige: “We’re very pleased to be able to participate in the Workforce Innovation Network and receive funding and technical assistance from NGA. This opportunity should ultimately accelerate and simplify the means by which people in Hawaiʻi connect to services provided by the state.”

Maine Governor Janet Mills: “There are good paying jobs in the trades, in electrical and plumbing work, in construction and manufacturing, in health care and life sciences and in clean energy that are going unfilled. Our economic recovery depends on our ability to connect Maine workers to those jobs. With NGA’s expertise, the State Workforce Board will continue our efforts to develop talent in the State of Maine in partnership with Maine’s Community Colleges, the University of Maine System, Adult Education, Career and Technical Centers, private employers and trade unions. On behalf of the people of Maine, I thank the National Governors Association for recognizing and rewarding our commitment to train the workforce of tomorrow.”

Missouri Governor Mike Parson: “Now more than ever, Missouri needs a strong, skilled workforce to move our economy forward. We are honored to be selected as a member of the Workforce Innovation Network, which will build on our efforts to strengthen workforce development and prepare Missouri job seekers for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak: “This is great news for the state of Nevada as we continue our recovery efforts. I am grateful to the National Governors Association and the Cognizant U.S. Foundation for selecting Nevada as one of nine states for this grant and allowing us to be part of the Inaugural Workforce Innovation Network Cohort. This grant will help further reinforce our state’s commitment to developing our workforce, providing essential training services, and further expanding employment opportunities for the residents of our great state.”

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham: “New Mexico is going to fight tenaciously to build out a comprehensive and sustainable recovery from the pandemic — and workforce pathways have always been and will always be a central part of our approach to diversifying and strengthening our economy. I’m thrilled New Mexico is one of nine states to have earned this grant. We will pursue every resource available to us in our efforts to lift up and support New Mexico workers and families. And I believe New Mexico’s workforce will, as we develop and enact more and more strategies for innovation and diversification, ultimately be stronger than ever before.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee: “This wonderful grant opportunity will not only help our economy recover from the pandemic, but will help us move our state workforce recovery forward inclusively and equitably. Even before the pandemic-related economic downturn, when Washington was one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, we knew inequities were unfairly holding other Washingtonians from getting to share in that success. The support and technical assistance this grant funds will help our state workforce recovery efforts by identifying any gaps or shortfalls in service delivery and, more importantly, potential solutions to these problems.”