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Workforce Readiness

3 Trends in State Law that Link Education to Workforce Development

The Education Commission of the States has released a rundown on state efforts to tie education with workforce development. The organization offers an interstate compact that tracks what's going on with education policy in every U.S. state and territory and advises education leaders.

Last year, according to ECS, 258 bills were introduced in 49 states and lawmakers eventually enacted 49 of those in 26 states. In a recent note, one of ECS' analysts examined three trends that bubble up in those bills, related to connecting education and workforce development.

The first trend was the use of policy to support the needs of the many different kinds of people who are pursuing "work-relevant education." For example, Vermont's H. 533 covers several aspects of workforce development addressing the support of a "diverse population." The state's Department of Labor must work with training and healthcare providers and the Department of Children and Families to boost the number of credential programs for healthcare, construction, manufacturing and child care. Likewise, the Departments of Labor and Education also need to work with the state's colleges and the Vermont Adult Career & Technical Education Association to figure out what would be involved in creating a "integrated postsecondary career and technical education system."

The second trend among states was to set up systems that would go beyond federal mandates on workforce innovation and opportunity. In Arkansas, for instance, S.B. 522/Act 1079 requires the Office of Skills Development and the Workforce Development Board to work with other state agencies and organizations to launch and manage an apprenticeship office.

The third trend involved using "existing data and financial investments" to align policy goals and projects. In Colorado, as an example, S.B. 19-097 established a grant program to provide up to $4 million each year to technical colleges for capital construction and equipment purchases. Maryland's H.B. 1115 lets community colleges get matching grants from the state for donations they've received specifically for improving the technology in their workforce readiness programs.

ECS is tracking 2020 legislative activity in the areas of postsecondary and workforce development in its ever-growing State Education Policy Tracking database.

The latest analysis of 2019 laws for education and workforce development is openly available on the ECS website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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