National Governors Association, Cognizant U.S. Foundation Launch Workforce Innovation Network to Support a Robust, Equitable Recovery

As Governors lead efforts to promote equitable and forward-looking economic recovery in their states and territories, the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices announced the launch of the Workforce Innovation Network to help facilitate innovative state-level policy solutions that help displaced workers.

Supported by the Cognizant U.S. Foundation, the Workforce Innovation Network will help states build capacity for near-term innovation and longer-term strategy to prepare their workforces for a post-COVID-19 economy. The network plans to devote particular attention to four areas: expanding access to essential support services; rapidly connecting job seekers to work; advancing digital access and skill development; and enhancing job quality for all workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reshaped large segments of the U.S. economy, resulting in the rapid loss of 20 million jobs and the closure and bankruptcy of thousands of small businesses, while accelerating trends toward automation and remote work. Governors have worked to secure assistance for displaced workers and affected businesses, meanwhile building new frameworks and interventions to support a more equitable economic recovery.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Governors have been focused on saving lives; ensuring access to education, public safety and other vital services; and ending the pandemic by getting a vaccine to those who need it,” said Timothy Blute, director of the NGA Center. “As we assist Governors in these crucial efforts, we’re proud to work alongside the Cognizant U.S. Foundation to foster collaboration among Governors and other stakeholders to address the unemployment crisis, and ensure that all workers share in the benefits of a robust economic recovery.”

“As we continue to address the inequities stemming from COVID’s economic impact, Governors will play a critical role in deploying workforce strategies in communities across the country,” said Kristen Titus, executive director of the Cognizant U.S. Foundation. “We look forward to seeing this network evolve as states build, implement and share innovative workforce strategies that get people back to work and into family-sustaining wages.”

In advance of launching the network, NGA hosted more than 100 participants from 32 states for the Creating an Agenda for Workforce Recovery workshop series. The four-part series covered key topics such as how to expand access to essential services and advancing digital inclusion. The content and conversations from the workshops have been compiled into a comprehensive State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery, also released today.

NGA and Cognizant U.S. Foundation invite states and territories to apply for grants from the Workforce Innovation Fund, which will support technical assistance for a cohort of states to rapidly connect unemployed job seekers to essential support services, work or training via people-centered, coordinated-service delivery models.

States and territories can apply the grants to study and develop solutions in areas such as regulatory reform, aligning program quality measures, leveraging the adoption and implementation of technology and data exchange, and developing new communities of practice with local providers. NGA and its network of subject-matter experts will provide targeted technical assistance to Workforce Innovation Network grantees over a five-month period beginning in March 2021.

The state selections are scheduled to be announced by early March.