Workforce Innovation Network

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. As Governors lead efforts to promote equitable and forward-looking economic recovery in their states and territories, the Workforce Innovation Network will help facilitate innovative state-level policy solutions that improve employment and workforce outcomes.

Supported by the Cognizant U.S. Foundation, the Workforce Innovation Network (NGA WIN) is helping states build capacity for near-term innovation and longer-term strategy to prepare their workforces for a post-COVID-19 economy. NGA WIN serves as a non-partisan learning and action collaborative for state leaders who have demonstrated strong commitments to building a resilient workforce.

The Network plans to devote particular attention to four areas:

  • Expanding access to essential support services
  • Rapidly connecting jobseekers to work
  • Advancing digital access and skill development
  • Enhancing job quality for all workers

To participate in the Network, states are invited to apply for grants made available by the Workforce Innovation Fund. States that are not selected to receive grants from the fund will have an opportunity to join the Network as non-grantee members to benefit from limited peer learning opportunities. These opportunities may include periodic virtual learning events and access to written resources during the grant period.

Join the Network

NGA and the Cognizant U.S. Foundation invite states and territories to join the Workforce Innovation Network and 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. States that do not receive grants but join as Network members will receive invitations to participate in select peer learning opportunities.

Proposals are due February 11, 2021.
A webinar for interested parties will be held January 19, 2021.

States Participating in the Network will Benefit from:

  • Peer learning and collaboration with other member states to identify best practices and share lessons learned across the education and workforce development system
  • Connections to NGA‘s partners, including corporate partners and national nonprofit organizations
  • Access to technical assistance including webinars, facilitated peer-to-peer learning, virtual state site visits and more

Workshops & Events

The NGA Center and its network of technical assistance partners will host a series of virtual and in-person workshops for Network members designed to:  

  • Identify and share best practices related to data infrastructure, data sharing and data use for improved service delivery
  • Incorporate equity and inclusion into state recovery planning to improve employment and workforce outcomes, particularly for populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19
  • Integrate technology and digital navigation tools to increase access to, and outcomes of, virtual and in-person employment and support services
  • Engage employers to train and hire new employees, prioritizing jobs that pay a living wage or more

Grant Funding & Customized Technical Assistance

States proposals accepted for funding from the Workforce Innovation Fund will be eligible to receive:

  • Support in 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
  • 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

Resources & Tools

  • Receive early access to innovative tools designed by peers in the field and be paired with experts to carry out state innovations
  • Building upon policy conversations from the State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery, the NGA Center will publish resources to highlight emerging innovations developed by participating states

For more information, questions, or requests, please contact Rachael Stephens.

The Workforce Innovation Network, State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery publication, and Creating an Agenda for Workforce Recovery workshop series are generously supported by the Cognizant U.S. Foundation.

“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. 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.”

Kristen Titus, Executive Director, Cognizant U.S. Foundation

State Roadmap For Workforce Recovery

In the Fall of 2020, the NGA Center hosted Creating an Agenda for Workforce Recovery, a four-part design workshop series to help states frame key challenges faced by their workforce, define short- and long-term recovery goals, and foster innovation and teamwork to improve workforce outcomes. Content and conversations gathered from more than 100 state and industry leaders during this series have been compiled in the State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery. This roadmap offers a first-of-its-kind framework for organizing state workforce response and recovery activities to accomplish four critical objectives that can support 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

For each of these four objectives, the roadmap organizes state planning activities and policy strategies across three essential phases of recovery: Respond, Restart, and Recover. Evidence already demonstrates that states will necessarily transition between these phases at different times and may propose varying definitions of these phases in their recovery plans. For this reason, this roadmap is not intended to specify a single or linear path. Instead, it offers a framework for addressing these four critical objectives in a way that will support a strong and equitable recovery.

Learn More…