State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery

This roadmap is designed to help Governors and state leaders address four objectives necessary to respond holistically to the unemployment crisis as well as to recover and build resilience in the post-pandemic economy.



Despite the rapid evolution of today’s crisis and the negative consequences resulting from COVID-19, recovery from its impacts also presents an extraordinary opportunity to close widening disparities and advance positive transformations taking place across the economy and the workforce. From the revolution of virtual services and growth in digital skill development to the redefinition of high-quality work and workplace norms in a post-COVID era, these innovations offer extraordinary promise for building a stronger workforce. 

While states are eager to restart and recover, doing so within today’s uniquely challenging context raises important questions for a state’s workforce development system. How are states defining success for a new type of recovery that promotes upward mobility for families struggling with unemployment and poverty? What responsibilities does the workforce development system and its employer partners have during each phase? How can states and businesses align the call for immediate action with longer-term transformations in work and learning? And finally, how can states and industry help one another capitalize on rapid innovations developed during response to the pandemic to transform their services and operating models for good?   

To help Governors and states address these questions, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) partnered with state leaders to compile a State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery. This resource has been crowd-sourced from multiple interviews and workshops with Governors’ advisors and state leaders in workforce and economic development throughout Fall 2020, including the Creating an Agenda for Workforce Recovery workshop series.  

More than 100 state and industry leaders from 32 states participated in Creating an Agenda for Workforce Recovery: A Workshop Series for States, which contributed to the development of this roadmap.

What’s Included in the Roadmap 

The State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery offers a framework for organizing state workforce response and recovery activities to accomplish four critical objectives necessary for a stronger and more equitable post-pandemic future:

  • Expand access to essential support services
  • Rapidly connect jobseekers to work
  • Advance digital access and skill development
  • Enhance job quality for all

The roadmap outlines the basic recovery framework used in each chapter and how to apply it to each of the four objectives, including:

  • A recovery framework to accomplish each objective
  • A menu of policy strategies across each of the three phases of recovery (Respond, Restart, Recover)
  • A selection of state examples and additional resources
  • Four state case studies featuring new details about how state peers are implementing this framework and policy strategies


The NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) thanks the more than 100 state officials, subject matter experts and industry leaders that participated in the Creating an Agenda for Workforce Recovery workshop series, whose leadership and insights shaped the content of this publication. The team also extends its appreciation to the following organizations for providing expertise to and review of this publication: the Office of Alabama Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation; the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Boston; former Governor Gary Herbert’s Office of Economic Development; the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; McKinsey & Company; Microsoft; the Office of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson; the Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation; the Rutgers University John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development; and Walmart.

The NGA Center would also like to thank the Cognizant Foundation for their generous sponsorship of this publication and the Creating an Agenda for Workforce Recovery workshop series.

This roadmap was prepared by Katherine Ash, an economic opportunity consultant under contract with the NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center), Madelyn Rahn, a policy analyst at the NGA Center, and Rachael Stephens, program director for Workforce Development and Economic Policy at the NGA Center. Invaluable contributions and editing were provided by NGA Center leadership as well as workforce development and economic policy, postsecondary education, and children and families program staff.