Last year, more than 100 new mayors were elected or appointed in cities across the United States, and many took office this month. Along with these new municipal leaders come new staff who will research, advise, and inform leadership regarding important public policies and programs, including workforce development initiatives.
Helping people get the education, training, and personal supports they need to secure good jobs with living wages while making sure employers have access to a skilled workforce is critical. With the economy booming and unemployment at an all-time low, businesses’ needs for a skilled workforce are harder to meet.
Even with a potential slowdown on the horizon, businesses and workers must prepare for a future of work transformed by technological innovation and automation, fewer low-skill factory jobs, and an increase in nontraditional employment.
What are mayors doing?
Jobs programs, reskilling and upskilling, and related topics are key components of many new mayors’ policy platforms:
- Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin, who took office in January 2018, has been looking at Germany’s apprenticeship system and courting German investors to offer apprenticeship opportunities in his city.
- San Francisco mayor London Breed, who won a special mayoral election in June 2018, unveiled an initiative in October to provide 3,000 high school students with paid internships and other work-based learning opportunities this summer.
- In November, Keisha Lance Bottoms, mayor of Atlanta since January 2018, announced a new Center for Workforce Innovation that will focus on outcomes-based education and training for high-demand occupations and be housed at Atlanta Technical College.
An important resource for mayors, their staff, and the national organizations that support them
Mayors and their administrations can benefit from better understanding complex local workforce systems and by learning about innovative strategies that support local workforce development.
Last June, the Urban Institute released the Local Workforce System Guide, which explains what local workforce systems are, what they do, what strategies they use, and how stakeholders can connect and partner to address the latest workforce development challenges.
The guide can help those new to workforce development understand the landscape in their city, identify key partners, uncover strategies to address particular needs, identify potential funding sources, and access labor market data.
Organizations that bring mayors together at the national level to offer education and support on workforce development strategies can use the guide as an educational or collaborative tool. The United States Conference of Mayors Workforce Development Council provides ongoing support for members to help them with their local-level work and collaborates closely with the conference’s Standing Committee on Jobs, Education, and Workforce.
The National League of Cities (NLC), which includes members from more than 19,000 large, medium, and small municipalities, operates an education and professional development initiative called NLC University, providing municipal leaders the knowledge and skills they need to serve their communities.
Better understanding local workforce systems can help leaders make smarter decisions about how best to serve worker and employer constituents and strengthen their communities.