Governors Leading the Way to Career Readiness

Postsecondary & Workforce

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This guest post comes from Jon Alfuth, an education policy analyst at the National Governors Association’s (NGA) Center for Best Practices. It also appears on Medium. Views expressed in guest posts are those of the author.

Recognizing that the key to financial success increasingly can be found in higher levels of education, America’s governors are taking steps to build stronger connections between the education their residents receive and the jobs they perform. At NGA, we have witnessed and worked with governors as they leverage their unique ability to set and implement a vision for how their states will build the framework necessary for their residents to thrive in the 21st century economy. Governors don’t think about K-12 and postsecondary education as separate spaces; rather, their proposals often intertwine and align elements of both education systems. This alignment includes several issue areas, including career and technical education, postsecondary technical education, computer science, STEM education and access to community colleges.

The following examples illustrate how four current governors are using their various powers to take broad action at multiple points across the career continuum and turn their proposals into policy.

In his State of the State addressConnecticut Gov. Ned Lamont emphasized the importance of education-workforce alignment by proposing to increase access to vocational education and apprenticeships by highlighting the importance of STEM education and expanding K-12 computer coding. Two new laws have furthered this agenda: a tax credit for employers who help their employees pay down their student loans and a bill expanding K-12 computer science education. Lamont has furthered workforce development in efforts by launching the Governor’s Workforce Council, a broad compilation of state leaders from business, higher education, K-12 public education, nonprofits, state agencies and the Legislature. The governor has tasked them with conducting a strategic analysis of the current ecosystem and launching new initiatives to close credential and skills gaps in the state.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ State of the State address focused attention on the Future Ready Iowa initiative. The project, developed in partnership with NGA, connects Iowans of all ages to the training and education they need to obtain a good job. In the address, she called on the Legislature to increase funding to further develop this plan. Lawmakers  approved  $16 million in new funding, which includes $13 million for a new, last-dollar postsecondary scholarship program and $1 million for a grant program to encourage students who left college without a degree to return. In her speech, Reynolds also spotlighted her Computer Science is Elementary initiative, a grant program empowering high-poverty elementary schools to incorporate computer science. This summer, Reynolds announced the first 12 schools selected as recipients of these grants.

During his first term, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf established the PAsmart initiative to strengthen the commonwealth’s workforce by strategically investing in the education and training needed for careers in high-growth industries. In his State of the State address, Wolf announced  plans to expand this initiative to make progress toward the commonwealth’s credential attainment goal of 60% of residents obtaining a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2025. Over two years, PAsmart is providing $70 million to promote computer science and STEM education in K-12 schools, expand registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, and support next-gen industry partnerships. The governor’s office also launched the PAsmart website to help residents identify the tools and resources they need to make education and career decisions. Additionally, this year Pennsylvania became one of six states to join NGA’s Educate for Opportunity project to connect postsecondary education and work. Both NGA and Education Commission of the States are working with Strada Education Network on this initiative.

In his State of the State address, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster proposed a number of policies to strengthen the alignment between education and workforce systems. These efforts included a new rural school district fund to bring new jobs and investment to the state’s poorest school districts; increased investments in scholarships for workforce training and development; and a 1% cap on increases in tuition and fees at state technical schools, colleges and universities to improve affordability. Through the state budget process, McMaster secured $65 million for the rural district fund and $42.7 million in workforce grants and scholarships. Institutions were also granted additional state funds in exchange for agreeing to no increase in tuition and fees for in-state students.

As these examples demonstrate, governors are successfully putting their proposals into action to ensure that education and workforce systems complement each other. And by doing so, they are helping their residents prepare for success in the world of work.

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