State economic development strategies support current and emerging businesses, while state workforce development activities help match jobseekers to employers. Although their goals overlap, differences in state agency structures, funding mechanisms, and performance accountability may hinder coordination between workforce and economic development efforts.
To support better collaboration, the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 calls on states to align their workforce development activities with their economic development strategies, providing an impetus for coordination between agencies that often do not work together.
Under WIOA, governors must implement sector strategies that target specific industries for economic growth. As states implement their WIOA plans, state leaders must identify how collaboration between workforce and economic development agencies best help workers develop the skills they need to get in-demand jobs.
In a new working paper, we share examples of sector strategies that support better state-level collaboration between workforce and economic development actors and agencies. From case studies and conversations with on-the-ground experts, we identified a number of promising ways workforce and economic development professionals can collaborate. Notable examples include:
- Deputy Sector Navigators within the California Community College System: Navigators are community college system employees who bring together local employers, the state workforce board, and other community actors in a framework that supports local industry and employer demands. The navigators identify skill gaps and work with local community colleges to address those needs.
- Pennsylvania Industry Partnerships Program: Industry partnerships are consortiums of employers that are awarded funding for worker and apprenticeship training programs by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry through a competitive application process. Local workforce development boards are conveners for industry partnership grants, monitoring and evaluating local projects and overseeing the budget and administration of grant funds. Each partnership involves a network that connects workers with in-demand training that aligns with emerging and existing industry needs.
These and other examples offer lessons on collaborative strategies that can apply to workforce and economic development agencies and efforts in all states. State-level collaboration can help drive cross-system partnerships and better leverage state government funding to support economic prosperity for workers and business.