Report: What States Need to Do for the Future Workforce

July 7, 2020

A new report highlights ways governors and other state policy makers are working to improve workforces with lifelong learning.

The National Governors Association spent two years examining 150 policies and programs across more than 40 states to create a guide for other policy makers. As more work becomes automated by technology, Americans will need to retrain to stay employed, according to the report. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this an even more timely project, a news release said, as it will likely accelerate disruptions to the American economy.

“While the pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to state economies, governors of both parties around the country are not only taking steps to reopen their state economies, but to do so with a sustainable and equitable approach that both anticipates and responds to the transformational changes under way in the American workforce,” Rachael Stephens, program director for workforce development and economic policy in the NGA Center, said in the release. “The State Guide to Preparing the Future Workforce is a timely resource for governors to leverage proven innovations and promising ideas to ensure that a rapidly changing economy provides opportunities for all.”

The current education and training systems tend to overlook those who are still employed but in fields that are at greater risk of being disrupted by technology, the guide argues. Targeted interventions also are necessary to reach and support populations with generally fewer resources, like minorities, women and those learning English.

The report identifies three phases that states must go through to prepare the workforces of the future. The first phase focuses on building a statewide ecosystem with a shared vision, including a data infrastructure, increased accountability of state programs where funding is tied to outcomes and the creation of partnerships between education and industry.

The second phase is to invest in a resilient workforce by innovating teaching and learning models, engaging employers in developing programs, and becoming a model employer. The third phase is to enable workers to participate in the future workforce by supporting them in various ways, such as ensuring lifelong learning is an affordable investment and grant flexibility for workers.

An interactive website lets people explore different policy pathways aimed at achieving these phases. It also includes case studies from Alabama, Arkansas and Washington.

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