National Governors Association Issues Guide for Building a Resilient Workforce Amid Technological Disruption

‘State Guide for Preparing the Future Workforce Now’ a Timely Resource as COVID-19 Accelerates Disruption

As COVID-19 accelerates disruptions impacting the American workforce, the National Governors Association (NGA) issued the findings of a comprehensive two-year project examining ways that governors and other state policymakers can nurture a technologically resilient workforce ready to thrive in an evolving economy.

The State Guide for Preparing the Future Workforce Now presents findings and recommendations from the Future Workforce Now: Reimagining Workforce Policy in the Age of Disruption initiative (Future Workforce Now). The guide is available online and via a first-of-its-kind interactive website where users can explore 150 policy and program examples from more than 40 states; in-depth case studies from Alabama, Arkansas and Washington; and global initiatives that promote lifelong learning and that train and credential an evolving workforce.

Launched in 2018, Future Workforce Now was led by the NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) in partnership with FHI 360 and the Fab Foundation, with support from the Siegel Family Endowment, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Schmidt Futures. Through topical roundtables with private-sector experts, researchers, and state leaders, Future Workforce Now explored the technological disruptions and global forces shaping the future of work, workers and workplaces; what these changes mean for education, training and state policy; and the most promising policy and practice responses to prepare the workforce of the future.

The guide found that COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate disruptions already affecting the workforce, including the adoption of automation, shortages of skilled workers in high-demand fields and growing wealth inequality driven by inequitable access to education and training. Because key aspects of education and workforce development programs are determined at the state level, governors are best positioned to commit to systems transformations that enable their citizens to succeed in the workforce of the future. Without these commitments to systems change, the disruptions impacting the workforce will exacerbate inequities that disproportionately affect traditionally disadvantaged and marginalized populations including people of color, those with disabilities, and New Americans.

The guide is a timely resource to help states recover from the impacts of COVID-19, which has inflicted widespread damage on the world and U.S. economy, depressing consumer activity and prompting the highest U.S. unemployment rates in decades.

“While the pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to state economies, governors of both parties around the country are developing strategies for long-term recovery that both anticipate and respond to the transformational changes under way in the American economy and workforce,” said Rachael Stephens, program director for workforce development and economic policy in the NGA Center. “The State Guide for Preparing the Future Workforce Now is a timely resource that governors can use to leverage proven innovations and promising ideas and ensure that a rapidly changing economy provides opportunities for all. It will be an especially powerful tool as states navigate an ongoing pandemic, recession, and long-standing issues of racial inequity and economic injustice that are now at the forefront of our national consciousness.”

The State Guide for Preparing the Future Workforce Now recommends that states:  

  • Build statewide ecosystems that promote lifelong learning for all workers by orienting leaders toward a shared vision, investing in data and a transparent credential infrastructure, and aligning funding with state workforce goals.

    Innovate teaching and learning models to close the digital skills gap by engaging employers to develop demand-driven training programs offering flexible learning pathways for all workers.
  • Increase investments in the comprehensive supports that enable all workers to succeed in the workforce, including access to financial aid, career advice and information, portable credentials, and flexibility to succeed in the gig economy.

“The global pandemic and associated economic crisis combined with the recent painful events around racial injustice and systemic inequality bring into sharp focus the need for an inclusive, diverse, agile and technologically literate workforce,” said Sherry Lassiter, president and CEO of The Fab Foundation. “We need education and training systems that prepare workers of all backgrounds for an era of unprecedented technological disruption, in order to build a productive, inclusive future for all. That’s why Fab Foundation is proud to have worked with the National Governors Association and FHI 360 to provide this guide that supports states as they lay the foundations for the economy of today and tomorrow.”

“The State Guide to Preparing the Future Workforce offers a set of policy and program recommendations for promoting lifelong learning, education and training strategies that respond to and anticipate future technological advances, and the supports that are essential for current and future workers,” said Ivan Charner, a senior advisor at FHI 360. “At a time when the country needs new policies and programs to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to 400 years of systemic racism, this guide offers proven lessons and new ideas that can provide all workers access to — and success in — the workforce.”