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

NGA and the Cognizant U.S. Foundation invite states and territories to join the Workforce Innovation Network to participate in select learning opportunities with NGA and its network of subject matter experts and to learn about future rounds of Workforce Innovation Fund grantmaking. Additional parties are invited to receive periodic updates about NGA WIN and how states are improving workforce and employment outcomes for a stronger and more equitable post-pandemic future by joining the mailing list.

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    NGA and Cognizant U.S. Foundation Announce First Cohort of Workforce Innovation Fund State Grantees

    Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington have been selected as the inaugural cohort of grantees in the Workforce Innovation Network, the National Governors Association (NGA) and Cognizant U.S. Foundation announced March 9, 2021. 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.

    • Winter 2021 Workforce Innovation Fund Grantees
    • Creating An Agenda For Workforce Recovery Workshop Participants

    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…