Staff Pick

State Workforce and Economic Development: Opportunities for Collaboration

Author(s): Urban Institute

Organizational Author(s): Eyster, Lauren and Briggs, Amanda.

Resource Availability: Publicly available

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Identifies opportunities for state leaders to coordinate workforce and economic development activities, such as joint planning, programming policy, funding, and data sharing, through examples of collaboration found in existing literature and refined in interviews with state experts from Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Mississippi, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.


“State workforce and economic development interests…align. At the state level, economic development staff can support new and expand current industries that produce jobs. State workforce development staff can help ensure a supply of skilled workers to meet employer demand. When state workforce and economic development policy and practice align, state leaders can be better prepared to help achieve economic prosperity for…the state.

However, little is known about how state workforce and economic development agencies collaborate. The literature on this subject focuses mainly on local and regional workforce and economic development collaboration. By examining examples of collaboration at the state level, this paper aims to identify opportunities for state leaders to better align their workforce and economic development activities through joint planning and programming, policy, funding, and data sharing.

The strategies this paper discusses are:

  1. Supporting collaboration between employers and education providers to build workers’ skills
  2. Developing sector strategies for joint planning and programming
  3. Coordinating funding to achieve workforce and economic development goals
  4. Using technology and data to connect employers and the workforce

It provides several examples for each of these strategies and identifies key takeaways…to implement these strategies. These examples may be useful for states as they implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA), the federal legislation that governs many of the state workforce development programs. WIOA includes economic development agencies as key partners in planning and implementing workforce programs and services.

This paper reviews the existing literature and highlights examples of…collaboration, based on interviews with state and local practitioners in workforce and economic development. The paper first discusses the differing roles and structures of state workforce and economic development and why alignment and collaboration can be difficult. It then highlights where some state and local efforts have had success in more closely aligning economic development and workforce development activities to support their mutual goals and highlights the lessons drawn from those efforts for all states. The paper concludes with ideas for next steps that state workforce and economic development leaders can take to build collaboration into their efforts moving forward” (p.5-6).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Guidance for implementing the four strategies:

“Supporting Collaboration between Employers and Education Providers to Build Workers’ Skills” (p.20)

“[T]hree efforts…have shown particular promise in connecting economic development and workforce development functions: 1) career pathways; 2) educational incubators; and 3) apprenticeship programs” (p.20). “[T]his...requires a commitment to sustained collaboration, such as participation in statewide committees that provides regular access to state agency leadership…establishing an initiative in state statute…or a financial incentive for employers to invest in their workforce” (p.24).

“Developing Sector Strategies for Joint Planning and Programming

The second strategy that holds promise…is the use of sectoral strategies….[Sectoral strategies refer] to employer-led partnerships that states or local workforce entities initiate to align available training that leads to high-quality jobs for in-demand occupations that meets employer demand” (p.24). “[A]n outside coordinating body…that works to leverage regional resources and expertise on behalf of the state…may help facilitate implementation of sector strategies….Additionally, business buy-in…helps protect state-funded program outcomes and levels of collaboration when there are economic shocks….Finally, sector strategies…must respond to shifts in local economic activity. The ability…to be flexible and shift…focus to fund training programs that align with employer demand is necessary for long-term economic vitality in a region” (p.29).

“Coordinating Funding to Achieve Workforce and Economic Development Goals” (p.29).

“Creating mechanisms for state funding streams to intersect and finding ways for funding to mutually support the goals of both economic development and workforce development stakeholders is a way for policymakers to institutionalize collaboration” (p.29).

“Using Technology and Data to Connect Employers and the Workforce” (p.35).

“This strategy grants stakeholders access to more information in a coordinated way, so that connections between employers and the availability and skills of the workforce are more readily understood. States stand to benefit from…these connections, including the ability to monitor how economic shifts have affected the workforce over time, adapt training investments and programs to align with projected employer demand, and inform jobseekers about opportunities and job prospects in particular industries” (p.35).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

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Workforce System Strategies Content Information

Content Type: Resource
Target Populations: Adults customers - All

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Views: 39
Publication Date: 2016
Posted: 3/5/2018 4:17 PM
Posted In: Workforce System Strategies
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