Workforce Development: The Next Generation

The most successful workforce development efforts are teaming with education resources to develop job-specific vocational studies in high schools, community colleges and universities.

By Jenny Vickers
From the March/April 2017 Issue

There’s been a lot of talk recently in Washington about expanding U.S. manufacturing, including creating new manufacturing jobs and the reshoring of manufacturing jobs from U.S. companies who are making their products in foreign plants. But a major hurdle stands in the way of a U.S. manufacturing boom: the shortage of workers with the skills to fill the advanced manufacturing jobs of the 21st century. This shortage is not just a U.S. problem, it’s a global phenomenon, which means that the competition for the skilled workforce pool also is global.

Human resources consultancy Randstad Sourceright recently surveyed 400-plus global HR executives and found that companies expect to hire extensively in the coming year to address anticipated growth (41 percent will add workers, compared to 32 percent who did so last year). But an even greater number see the skills gap impacting their businesses in the future.

Four-fifths of executives surveyed said that a shortage of sufficiently skilled workers will affect their companies in the next 12 months. The most-represented sector in the survey is manufacturing, which the Trump Administration has called the “backbone of our economy.” Complaints of hard-to-fill factory jobs are backed up by Bureau of Labor Statistics data: 324,000 manufacturing spots were open in November, up from 238,000 a year earlier.

All of the above underlines the reality that workforce development remains the top priority essential to successful economic development; it also makes our annual tour of the leading workforce development programs essential reading.


Virginia has a longstanding reputation as a workforce pioneer thanks to programs such as the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP), which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change to support employee training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies.

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Gov. Terry McAuliffe (left) presides over the announcement that Nestle USA, the world’s largest food-manufacturing company, is relocating its U.S. headquarters to Arlington County in Virginia.

In the last five years, VJIP has supported hundreds of projects that, at completion, are associated with the recruitment, training or retraining of more than 72,000 jobs.

In February 2017, Nestlé USA, the largest food manufacturing company in the world, announced plans to relocate its U.S. headquarters to Arlington County, investing over $39 million and creating 748 jobs.

Working with the Arlington Department of Economic Development, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) organized a workforce partners meeting with the company, universities, community colleges, workforce investment boards, veterans groups and the Virginia Employment Commission to introduce Nestlé to available support and resources to assist with filling new positions. VJIP committed funding to support the new job creation and connected the company with the workforce partners in the region.

In January 2017, Winchester Metals, a complete package metals industry partner, invested $140,000 in new equipment at its manufacturing operation in Frederick County. VJIP is helping to retrain 29 existing employees to operate the new machinery.

The robotic welding system can be programmed to perform repetitive welding operations automatically, increasing efficiency in production and freeing the company’s experienced fabricators to perform more complex work.

“We are committed to continuing to grow our business in Virginia and having a partner like the VEDP and its programs available for support makes it even more possible,” said Josh Phelps, President of Winchester Metals. “VJIP allows us to offset some of the costs associated with training our great employees to accommodate capital investments like this machine into our operations. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program.”

In August 2016, Niagara Bottling, a family-owned and operated bottled beverage supplier, announced it will invest $95 million to establish a manufacturing and bottling operation in Chesterfield County, using state-of-the-art filtration to produce its Niagara brand and private label bottled water. The project will create 76 new jobs.

The VEDP workforce team brought together regional workforce partners in a town hall-style meeting to introduce Niagara’s HR and recruiting staff. This meeting allowed the company to express its needs and concerns and to hear how local service providers could assist. VJIP is providing funding to support the new job creation and connected the company with the workforce partners in the region.

Additional incentives for workforce development include the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Fund and Program, the first pay-for-performance workforce training program in the nation. The program provides a pay-for-performance model for funding noncredit workforce training that leads to a credential in a high demand field. It also includes requirements for students to complete the program in order to avoid paying additional costs.

The grants can be used for selected programs at participating institutions, from Virginia community colleges, regional higher education centers and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville to the New College Institute in Martinsville.

The fund will provide grants covering two-thirds of the tuition, up to $3,000, for students who are enrolled in a workforce training program designed to fill in-demand jobs. As an incentive program, the state will pay a third of the costs, up to $1,500, when students complete the program and make the final payment when they receive a certificate or license, up to $1,500. Students will be responsible for the remaining share of the cost.

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Virginia $200,000 in funding through the Apprenticeship USA State Accelerator Grant to expand its apprenticeships. This grant constitutes the first phase of $90 million in new federal grants, which aim to double the number of apprenticeships in the country by 2019.

The program increases outreach to employers to start new apprenticeship programs, engages industry and other partners to expand apprenticeships in non-traditional industry sectors, such as Cybersecurity and Information Technology, and increases the number and percentage of women and minorities participating in apprenticeships. The program also integrates apprenticeships into education and workforce development systems, such as high school career and technical education, community colleges and Virginia’s One Stop Career Centers.

New, enhanced features are now available through the Commonwealth’s web-based service for job seekers and Virginia businesses, the Virginia Workforce Connection. The Virginia Workforce Connection,, is a free online resource that connects job seekers to jobs, and businesses to qualified candidates. The Virginia Workforce Connection currently features more than 150,000 active job postings within the Commonwealth. Registered employers using the website have access to more than 70,000 active candidate resumes.

“The Virginia Workforce Connection is another effective device in meeting today’s workforce development needs,” said Governor McAuliffe. “It serves as a vital clearinghouse, providing businesses access to candidates and helping Virginians find new employment opportunities to support themselves and their families. This is one way we’re using technology to help close the skills gap in the Commonwealth and furthering our efforts to build a new Virginia economy.”

The updates include new tools to help job seekers identify a career that aligns with their interests and abilities and the ability to create a Virtual Recruiter that will send a system alert when a job is posted that aligns with their profile. For Virginia businesses, the Virginia Workforce Connection now offers a fully customizable recruiting experience and the ability to build robust job postings and customer-tailored job applications.

Virginia’s diverse and talented workforce is one of the Commonwealth’s greatest assets. Companies considering expanding or locating a facility in the state will find top-rated educational institutions and a vibrant, tech savvy and diverse multicultural talent pool.

Case in point is KYOCERA SGS Precision Tool Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of KYOCERA Corporation and a leader in solid carbide cutting tool manufacturing, which announced in September 2016 that it is investing $9.5 million to establish a North American technology and strategic manufacturing hub, KYOCERA SGS Tech Hub, in the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County.

Virginia successfully competed against Ohio and South Carolina for the project, which will create 35 new jobs. The company cited Virginia’s skilled workforce as a top reason it was attracted to the state.

“The support and investment the elected officials have demonstrated complement the emphasis they have placed into developing a skilled workforce starting at the high school level, networking world class University level engineering programs and supporting industry changing research at facilities such as the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research,” said Jason Wells, Chief Technical Officer of KYOCERA SGS Tech Hub. “This provides us with complete confidence that our only option is success in Virginia.”

KYOCERA received training support through VJIP and funding from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, as well as state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program. KYOCERA SGS Tech Hub has also joined the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) as an Organizing Member, the highest level of participation CCAM offers.


Alabama is among the top states for workforce development, with innovative and top-of-the-line training programs led by AIDT, a part of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

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JetBlue takes delivery of an Airbus jet for its commercial passenger fleet. Alabama’s aviation and aerospace sector includes more than 300 companies employing more than 83,000 workers.

For the past five years, the Alabama Department of Commerce has been streamlining and improving its overall workforce development program through Accelerate Alabama, a strategic plan to bring together both the education and economic development community to accelerate workforce training initiatives across the state.

“A major focus of ours has been to find more creative approaches to bring together both private and public partnerships to meet industry-wide needs,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Accelerate Alabama has seen great success with the launching of new initiatives such as the Alabama Workforce Council, AlabamaWorks and Apprenticeship Alabama. The Alabama Workforce Council serves as advisors to the education, workforce and economic development community, as well as state government. This year the Department of Commerce kicked off Accelerate Alabama 2.0 with $1 million in funding to help expand the mission of the Alabama Workforce Council and reorganize the state’s system of regional workforce councils.

“This funding will provide the needed organizational structures in these seven regional workforce councils to tie in the education community, elected leadership, civic leadership, economic development and the private sector to focus on skills development, education and career connectivity for students and workers,” said Sec. Canfield.

Today, the Alabama Workforce Council has 38 members, 29 of which are private sector, representing different industries and different regions across the state. They’ve been responsible for creating the successful AlabamaWorks program, the state’s unified workforce system which connects businesses with job seekers and helps prepare workers by linking them to career and job training opportunities.

“It’s about taking Alabama to the national forefront of workforce development so that every person in Alabama who wants to find a job can, and so that every employer that comes to Alabama will be able to hire the skilled workers it needs,” said Sec. Canfield. “We truly believe that we are building a system that will soon become a national model.”

The backbone of AlabamaWorks will be the seven local Regional Workforce Councils, local Alabama Career Centers and a new website.

“For our state and every other state out there, the importance of workforce availability is going to continue to be our number one challenge,” said Sec. Canfield. “So everything that we’re doing is really centered around making sure we connect the private sector and education community to develop a workforce pipeline aligned with the types of jobs and careers that will be available for the next five, ten and fifteen years.”

A new Gallup poll shows that Alabama has the nation’s most engaged workforce. In February 2017, the survey found that 37 percent of workers are engaged, ahead of Delaware, Kentucky and Louisiana at 36 percent and nine other states at 35 percent. The U.S. average was 33.7 percent.

The polling organization defines engaged workers as those who are highly involved in their work and their workplace. “They are psychological ‘owners,’ drive performance and innovation, and move the organization forward,” it writes.

“Alabama workers continue to show that they’ve got a lot of energy and passion,” said Sec. Canfield. “They very much want to be a part of a team and they enjoy the opportunity to feel that they are making a difference within the companies they work. We hear that every day from companies that we work with, whether its Mercedes-Benz, Boeing or smaller start-up companies that continue to grow in our state, we’re hearing great things.”

AIDT’s job-training programs are providing a solid foundation for companies that operate in Alabama, including the development of high-tech industry growth in sectors like aviation and aerospace, which comprises more than 300 companies, employing around 83,000 people.

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On-site training facilities set up by AIDT include a facility (pictured above) to train Mercedes-Benz workers in Tuscaloosa and a Robotics Technology Park in Decatur.

In 2014, AIDT opened a $7-million Alabama Aviation Training Center at the Mobile Aeroplex to prepare workers for the Airbus A320 Family Assembly Line (FAL). In March 2016, the first Airbus aircraft produced at the Aeroplex, the Airbus 321, the largest in the A320 FAL, took flight. Alabama is only one of three states in the U.S. where large passenger jets are assembled. Airbus invested $600 million in the FAL project, creating 1,000 new jobs.

“We’ve come to an exciting milestone in the production of any aircraft, but this one is particularly special,” said Daryl Taylor, Vice President and General Manager of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. “The Mobile team has worked hard, and I’m proud that their skill and talent have brought us to this moment.”

Sec. Canfield said the training center will play an important role as the state’s aerospace industry continues to grow.

“The feedback we continue to get from Airbus has been very positive,” said Sec. Canfield. “Once we get Airbus fully operational and get their entire staff fully trained as they add new staff and continue to grow, the training center will begin to focus on a broader mission of growing the types of skills and providing the training necessary to support the entire aviation and aerospace sector.”

AIDT worked with Airbus to develop a pre-employment training process that has allowed them to exceed their targeted deadlines and operate ahead of their manufacturing schedule. The training facility includes six classrooms and labs, making it capable of training scores of skilled workers. Instruction at the center focuses on skills such as advanced materials composites, paint, electrical and welding.

AIDT recently helped launch the state’s first Alabama Workforce Training Center (AWTC) in Birmingham, a public private partnership with the state’s community college system, local high schools and the private sector. The center is helping train high school students in areas such as construction, electrical contracting, masonry and carpentry.

“What makes this unique is that Birmingham’s general contractor community came to us and said they were finding it difficult to locate a skilled workforce,” said Sec. Canfield. “So we created this facility to address that issue. I think it’s just another demonstration of our willingness to find creative approaches to meet industry-wide needs, not just individual company requirements for a trained workforce.”

AIDT also is in the midst of Phase Three of the Robotics Technology Park in Decatur to focus on advanced training opportunities and allow companies to come in, set up shop temporarily and conduct specific training work as it relates to automated systems and technology development. It also includes a new Paint Dispense Training Facility that will assist the automotive sector in automated and paint technology areas.

One of the state’s newest programs to launch, Apprenticeship Alabama will continue to help raise the bar on the skill set of workers to create a dependable workforce. The program will provide tax credits to participating companies that have qualified apprentices who receive classroom instruction and on-the-job training.

“World-class companies have put down roots here, and they have flourished because of the drive, determination and skill of their workforce,” said Sec. Canfield. “We must keep investing in our people so those success stories can continue.”


In February 2017, a dozen New Mexico companies received $1.45 million to create 388 jobs and one internship through the state’s successful Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP).

The JTIP is one of the most generous training incentive programs in the country, providing funding for classroom and on-the-job training for newly created jobs in expanding businesses for up to six months.

“The assistance JTIP provides not only helps companies grow and thrive in our state, it creates good jobs for hard working New Mexicans,” said Economic Development Secretary Matt Geisel. “It’s an incredible tool that helps new companies build their presence in our state and helps our homegrown companies expand and thrive.”

To qualify, companies must either create a product in New Mexico, or provide a nonretail service with 50 percent of the company’s costumer or revenue base outside of the state. Eligible jobs must be full-time and year-round.

The incentive helps to accelerate high-tech job growth in the state. Safelite Solutions, LLC, the largest auto glass specialist in the U.S., was one of the February 2017 JTIP awardees, receiving $839,700 to create 320 jobs in Rio Rancho.

“To have the State of New Mexico invest in training to make sure the people we employ can be as successful as possible says a lot about the culture in the State of New Mexico,” said Brian O’Mara, VP of Client Service Delivery for Safelite Solutions. “Thanks to JTIP, we are able to create jobs for hundreds of New Mexicans and give our employees opportunities for growth.”

SolAero Technologies Corp., a home grown company, was awarded $182,090 through the JTIP to support employee training for its expansion. SolAero plans to move its manufacturing operations from California to Albuquerque, creating 100 new high-tech manufacturing jobs.

In the first phase of their project, SolAero will invest $10 million to overhaul 40,000 feet of their existing Albuquerque facility to create a vertically integrated solar panel manufacturing facility. This expansion will support One Web Satellites—a joint venture between the world’s second-largest space company, Airbus Defence and Space, and One Web—to bring satellite internet to every corner of the globe.

“Thanks to the business-minded reforms under Governor Martinez, we’re able to expand and create new jobs right here in New Mexico,” said Dr. Brad Clevenger, CEO of SolAero. “Without powerful incentives like LEDA and JTIP, and a multitude of strong tax incentives, an expansion of this scale would not be possible.”

Additional companies receiving funding include Vitality Works, Inc., Albuquerque; Meow Wolf, Inc., Santa Fe; Rural Sourcing, Inc. Albuquerque; PCM Sales, Inc., Rio Rancho; and Skorpios Technologies, Inc., Albuquerque.

JTIP is helping businesses expand and create more job opportunities. Last summer, more than a dozen New Mexico companies received $2.2 million to create more than 313 jobs through JTIP. Among the companies that received funding was cybersecurity firm RiskSense, which landed $336,423 in funding, and Unity BPO, an Albuquerque healthcare technology business, which received $517,000 to help hire and train 70 health IT professionals with health domain understanding and IT skills.

Unity BPO plans to hire nearly 300 full-time employees over the next few years as part of its expansion plans. To qualify for the entry-level clinical analyst positions, candidates will need a high school degree, a technical certification and a background in healthcare.

“New Mexico has an ideal business climate for growing our business,” said Unity CEO Steve Wade at a news conference. “We could locate elsewhere, but places like Austin, Denver or Phoenix wouldn’t provide incentives such as JTIP, LEDA or Rapid Workforce Development. These generous incentive programs help us grow our business and create more jobs in New Mexico.”

Established in 1963, the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County (EDCLC) is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to recruiting new, quality businesses to Lea County and assisting with the retention and expansion of existing industry.

EDCLC has partnered with the New Mexico Junior College (NMJC) division of Careers & Technology and Training & Outreach to provide workforce training programs throughout the county. Workforce development is provided through technical degree programs, customized training and continuing education.

NMJC’s partnership with Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), an OSHA Training Institute Education Center based in Dallas, Texas, has yielded positive result as Leo County now offers the most OSHA approved safety training courses in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas.

They have partnered with Workforce Investment & Opportunities Act (WIOA) and the New Mexico Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (NMDVR) in the past two years to help students attend EDLC’s Commercial Driver License (CDL) trainings, lease pumper training and Instrumentation & Controls training.

“Our business model of contracting and sub-contracting out nearly all of our training opportunities allows us to respond to demand in a swift and efficient manner,” said Steve Sauceda, Director of Workforce Training at NMJC. “We are proud to partner with numerous consultants, trainers, and instructors on a wide variety of subjects to provide quality training at affordable pricing to our clients.”

NMJC offers degree programs to provide technical knowledge as well as extensive practical hands-on skill developing experiences for students. Workforce training is available through continuing education courses as well. From half day sessions to multi-day events, each course provides quality certificate-based training to keep students up-to-date with business methods, technologies and self-promotion.

NMJC also provides instruction to the nuclear industry, renewable energy, oilfield companies, city governments, multi-national corporations and locally owned small businesses through customized training programs. Training consultants will work with clients to pinpoint what type of training an organization, company or corporation needs. Training can be offered at the workplace or at the NMJC Training & Outreach Facility and can be customized to fit the client’s budget, location, curriculum and schedule.


Pennsylvania’s workforce development programs are focused on ensuring its workers have the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Over the past two years, Gov. Tom Wolf has worked to increase the number of residents with college degrees and high-value industry-recognized credentials through the Pennsylvania Combined Workforce Innovation and Opportunity State Plan and significant collaboration among state agencies, including the departments of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and Labor & Industry (L&I). He has also worked to expand economic opportunity for both residents and businesses.

“Pennsylvania’s 21st century economy is driven by highly skilled, highly trained workers,” said Secretary Dennis Davin, Pennsylvania DCED. “Research continues to demonstrate the value that apprenticeship and other workforce training programs have in providing workers the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to succeed in our modern economy through on-the-job training.”

The 2017-18 budget continues to invest in workforce development and training programs. As the third-largest industry in Pennsylvania, manufacturing employs over 550,000 workers with an average salary of $72,500. Governor Wolf has proposed Manufacturing PA initiatives that link job training to career pathways, ensuring that training leads not simply to any job, but to careers that provide higher pay and opportunities for advancement.

The initiative aims to partner research universities and Industrial Resource Centers to accelerate manufacturing technology advancement and adoption, foster manufacturing innovation and commercialization, and continue building a highly skilled, highly trained workforce.

Building upon the recent enactment of a Manufacturing Tax Credit to encourage high-tech manufacturing growth, Governor Wolf’s budget proposal also includes a manufacturing training-to-career grant program. Through this new grant program, manufacturing businesses will receive funds to partner with technical programs and community colleges to develop new training programs that align with their workforce needs.

“Gov. Wolf’s 2017-18 proposed budget enhances workforce development initiatives to increase productivity, enhance employee retention, lower recruitment costs and provide workers with the skills they need to compete for good-paying jobs,” said Davin.

The budget proposal also establishes a new apprenticeship grant program to ensure workers—both those leaving the K-12 education systems as well as those transitioning into a new sector—can receive training aligned to business workforce needs.

In addition, the state also aims to move Industry Partnerships (IP) from L&I to DCED to provide a “one-stop shop” for business training needs. IPs provide grant funding to support collaborative efforts that provide employer-driven, advanced skills training by bringing together multiple employers, workers, worker representatives and career and technical educators in targeted industries.

Each year, Pennsylvania’s institutes of higher education, including career and technical schools, colleges and universities, add highly skilled graduates to a labor force of more than 6.5 million. Pennsylvania’s universities are world-renowned and include five of the top 50 educational institutions in the U.S.

Partnerships between state workforce training programs and world-class education entities strengthen the growing workforce, attracting new growth across the state. For example, the WEDnetPA Training Program offers an employer-driven choice to make businesses more competitive while keeping employee skills current and relevant.

The program enables employers to determine their own training needs and select among a wide range of training providers, as well as decide how and where the businesses will receive the training. Both eligible in-state businesses and out-of-state companies relocating to Pennsylvania can apply to WEDnetPA to access training funds. The funding, in turn, can be used for a wide range of training—categorized as either Essential Skills Training or Advanced Technology Training.

To date, more than 18,437 businesses were assisted and more than 1,144,112 employees were trained through the program. Recent companies taking advantage of the program include:

  • Curbs Plus, a manufacturer of roof curbs for HVAC units, announced earlier this year it will invest more than $717,000 to establish a new production facility in Huntington County, creating 26 new, full-time jobs.
  • Continental Carbonic Products, a producer and distributor of solid liquid carbon dioxide and dry-ice blasting machines, announced in September 2016 it will make a multi-million dollar investment to establish a new manufacturing facility in Clearfield County that would create 60 new, full-time jobs and retain 10 existing positions.
  • Paychex, a leading provider of payroll, human resources, insurance and benefits outsourcing solutions for small-to-medium sized businesses in the U.S. and Germany, announced in March 2016 it will invest $1.3 million to create 100 new, full-time jobs and retain 444 existing positions through an expansion at its Lehigh County site.

All three companies received a funding proposal from DCED, coordinated by the Governor’s Action Team, that included a Pennsylvania First Program grant, Job Creation Tax Credits to be distributed upon creation of the new jobs and WEDnetPA funding to train its workforce.

L&I also works with DCED to promote and support WEDnetPA projects. They direct a number of successful and innovative initiatives to strengthen the state’s workforce for all workers and employers.

For example, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) provides training programs in an established list of High Priority Occupations that match customer interest and skills with training for a career that will lead to gainful employment. The program also allows individuals to receive unemployment benefits to support financial needs during the training period.

Ann Clippinger, who served 21 years as a Support Specialist, recently took advantage of the program after her position was outsourced overseas. She worked with her local American Job Center (PA CareerLink Cumberland County) to identify a TAA training program that would provide her with a fulfilling and sustainable career. Ann’s career choice led her to pursue a registered nursing degree at Harrisburg Area Community College. After completing a series of prerequisite courses, Ann completed her associate’s degree program in nursing in December 2016.

Two new and unique apprenticeship programs are opening up career opportunities for secondary and post-secondary students in Philadelphia.

The Brightside Academy and District 1199C are registering Early Childhood/ Pre-K Teacher apprenticeship programs with L&I this month. The first of their kind in the country, these programs will be aligned with associate degrees from the Community College of Philadelphia County and Drexel University, so students can see clearly a career path from high school to college in education careers that are in-demand.

The School District of Philadelphia is registering an apprenticeship program that trains students at the district’s career and technical schools and then hires them to work for the school’s maintenance program as electrician’s or plumber’s apprentices upon graduation.

In the summer of 2016, Pittsburgh’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation rolled out the #MYWork Initiative: Municipalities & Youth Summer Employment Program, a pilot program that matched high school students with disabilities to paid, summer work experiences in their communities.

During the program, 50 students gained real-life work experience, exploring different jobs at 10 municipalities and earning a paycheck, 100 percent of which was reimbursed by OVR to the employer. Landscaping, community beautification projects and summer playground program monitoring were just a few of the jobs that these students held in their communities.

“I fully endorse the program,” said Michael Cherepko, the Mayor of the City of McKeesport. “It’s very fulfilling because of the impact we’re making on the young adults. But, more importantly, they’ve made a tremendous impact on our city and some of the services that we provide to our residents.”

At the 61 Pennsylvania CareerLink locations across the state, veterans go to the front of the line to receive personalized career counseling, often from a fellow veteran employed as a veteran career specialist. These specialists not only serve as career counselors, but they also help veterans receive other support services. Many veterans re-enter the civilian labor force with more significant barriers to employment.

Such was the case with David Hensley, a Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm. When David visited the Pennsylvania CareerLink of Clearfield County at DuBois he received assistance with filing for various family support services provided by the federal government and an individual development plan for employment and professional development.

During his short-term training at West Virginia State University, David was hired by Bigler Boyz Environmental as a HAZMAT safety coordinator where he continued on-the-job training while earning a wage to support his family.


Tennessee’s workforce development programs place a high emphasis on education as key to building a skilled workforce. The state’s new Drive to 55 Alliance is an active and rapidly growing alliance of private sector partners, leaders and non-profits working together in support of the state’s Drive to 55 initiative to equip 55 percent of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025.

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In December, GMACWorkforce launched MemphisWorks, a tool (app and website, mobile screenshots above) for career navigation, training, career counseling, case management and hiring, developed by Workbay LLC. (Photo: MemphisWorks)

In 2014, the Alliance launched Tennessee Promise, a successful scholarship program that has now become a model for the nation. The program provides two-years of tuition-free community or technical college to Tennessee high school graduates beginning with the Class of 2015.

Tennessee Promise was modeled after tnAchieves, which was launched as a universal last-dollar community and technical college scholarship that paired students with volunteer mentors and required its students to complete at least eight hours of community service each semester.

From 2008-2014, tnAchieves supported more than 10,000 students into a community or technical college with more than $15.5 million privately raised exclusively for last-dollar student scholarships. Students in the program are now retaining and graduating at a rate 50 percent greater than state averages.

tnAchieves currently serves as the partnering organization to Tennessee Promise. Together, they established 85 county-based advisory councils comprised of local higher education, secondary education and business leaders as well as public officials to ensure local ownership and sustainability. tnAchieves annually recruits and trains nearly 7,500 volunteers to serve as mentors to nearly 60,000 TN Promise applicants as they transition from high school to college.

Early indicators of the Tennessee Promise program have been encouraging. In February 2017, the state announced first-time freshman enrollment in public higher education had increased by 13 percent since the program began accepting applications in 2014. And several states, including Oregon, New York and Rhode Island, have followed in Tennessee’s footsteps, adopting or pursuing similar programs of their own.

“When we launched Tennessee Promise, our goal was not only to get more students to enroll in a technical or community college but also to see the students succeed and graduate,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “Students must receive post-secondary credentials if we’re going to achieve the goal of Drive to 55, and we will continue to work with our campus leaders to ensure these students have the highest possible chances of attaining their certificate or degree.”

In September 2016, the state launched Complete Tennessee as a new education advocacy group focused on increasing postsecondary attainment. The organization will work with local communities statewide to identify opportunities and best practices to promote college completion and increase graduation rates.

“As we work to dramatically increase the number of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate, we need an organization that can spearhead and align community investment and engagement on the ground,” said Dr. Kenyatta Lovett, former Tennessee Board of Regents assistant vice chancellor serving as executive director of Complete Tennessee. “Complete Tennessee will prepare local stakeholders, community leaders and families with the data and resources necessary to identify and follow pathways to postsecondary success.”

The Knoxville Chamber is a participant in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s (USCCF) signature workforce development initiative, the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Academy. The initiative, which was launched in October 2016, aims to address the nation’s skills gap by positioning employers in a more central role as key customers of postsecondary education and training providers.

The TPM Academy, which is supported by a $2.5 million grant from USA Funds, consists of workshops led by USCCF for business professionals to receive instruction on talent pipeline strategies and guidance for implementation. In addition to a curriculum, technical assistance and a peer-to-peer learning network, a key resource to be developed as part of the Academy will be the next generation of software tools and applications that support ongoing implementation of signature TPM strategies.

“The Knoxville Chamber is committed to deploying the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management model that empowers employers to provide leadership as “end-customers” of education and workforce partnerships,” said Amy Nolan, vice president of public policy for the Knoxville Chamber.

Guided by real-time data, the Chamber will organize employers to identify specific skill sets, competencies and credentials for jobs for which there is unmet demand now and predicted in the future.

“As a 2,200-business member organization and the economic development agent for Knox County and the city of Knoxville, the Knoxville Chamber recognizes that workforce development is core to its mission of driving regional economic prosperity,” said Nolan. “The organization has made initial investments in staff and technology to convene this process and provide employer leadership to guide it.”

The TPM model is designed to address the mismatch between outcomes of the current education and training system, which has resulted in employers nationwide trying to find qualified candidates for nearly 6 million unfilled jobs.

The Knoxville Chamber is also the lead partner of eight agencies that collaborate on executing Innovation Valley’s five-year regional economic development strategic plan Blueprint 2.0, to advance business growth in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. This region is centered on a corridor linking the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and McGhee Tyson Airport, providing world-class resources in science, technology and business.

For the past eight years, Innovation Valley has held an Educators in the Workplace summer program, which is designed to show educators real-world applications in the curriculum they teach so they can engage and excite their students. Participants receive a facility tour, discussion about day-to-day business operations and insight into workplace culture, all while receiving in-service credit hours.

This year was the largest yet for the program with 30 company visits offered providing diverse opportunities for the region’s educators to participate.

The Knoxville Chamber also is helping students and adults identify hot jobs in the state through Launch My Career TN. The web tool not only identifies the hot jobs that are in demand across Tennessee and the degree or certificate programs to prepare for those roles, it shows users what skills are necessary to be successful in a particular career.

“A skilled workforce with 21st century skills is critical to our state’s well-being and business success,” said Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber. “This web tool is a great way to show students and adults what jobs are in-demand and what skills are necessary to be successful in those jobs. Having a highly-skilled workforce in Tennessee is critical if we want to continue recruiting innovative companies to the state.”

Launch My Career TN also compares projected future earnings to the investment required to graduate from a program, analyzes earnings potential and helps students understand the personal and professional satisfaction that accompanies different careers.

Other features of the tool include a lifestyle goal calculator, showing the number of years it will take for the salary from a particular occupation to meet a user’s lifestyle goals; and a break-even calculator that demonstrates the numbers of years it will take for the earnings after completing a particular degree program to exceed the total net price of the program.

In August 2016, the Knoxville Chamber hosted its inaugural Young Professionals Summit, Endeavor. The one day summit creates a venue for young professionals to get engaged, become empowered and provide opportunities to get involved in the Knoxville community. The event includes keynote speakers, workshops, peer-to-peer networking opportunities and an after party with food, drinks and live music.

“It is an exciting and pivotal time to be a millennial in the workforce, and we are fortunate to have an incredibly talented pool of young professionals in the area,” said Caroline Bevillard, associate director of campaigns for the University of Tennessee Athletic Department and Endeavor steering committee member. “Right now we have a great opportunity and also a great responsibility to maximize our impact on this community, professionally and personally. My hope is that the Endeavor YP Summit will serve as a platform for us to develop and facilitate positive growth here in Knoxville.”

The Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACWorkforce) was created in November of 2014 out of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle and the Memphis and Shelby County Regional Economic Development Plan, in collaboration with the Brookings Institution Policy Program.

Its purpose is to create an effective pipeline of high-skilled workers tailored to the needs of area businesses through the collaboration of its partner organizations while also working every day to build career pathways between the unemployed and the area’s open high-skill positions.

In December 2016, GMACWorkforce launched MemphisWorks—a tool (app and website) for career navigation, training, career counseling, case management and hiring. This new system was developed by Workbay LLC, a company located in Memphis who has partnered with GMACWorkforce on this custom tool for Memphis.

The platform is designed to educate the workforce about high demand jobs and provide access to the information needed to obtain the skills required for those jobs. It helps job seekers find jobs, view videos of real people in actual job settings in the Memphis region and build their portfolio and ultimately apply for jobs.

“MemphisWorks is a significant opportunity for Memphis,” said Phil Trenary, President & CEO, Greater Memphis Chamber. “The availability of a quality workforce is the number one issue communities across the country face, but with this new tool in Memphis our city will see more people easily being connected to training and good jobs right from their cell phone. Innovations like this will take our economy to the next level.”

In its initial rollout, the MemphisWorks platform will feature career pathways for six key economic sectors: Advanced Manufacturing, Construction & Engineering, Health Sciences, Information Technology (IT), Transportation and Distribution, & Logistics (TDL). Entrepreneurship is integrated across the sectors. Additional pathways including Hospitality and Retail are proposed for the future expansion of the tool.

Workbay was excited about launching in Memphis because of the profound impact it can have on the workforce and economic sustainability in Memphis. MemphisWorks includes a mobile app that allows job seekers to search and apply for jobs around their location, explore careers and take online training that adds badges to their resume, all through their mobile device.


Georgia is a hub for some of the largest companies in the world. There are 18 Fortune 500 headquarters and more than 450 Fortune 500 companies that call Georgia home. The state also is becoming a national hub for the IT and cyber security industries.

workforce development
Georgia WorkSmart offers a Registered Apprenticeship program (graduates with diplomas, above), which helps organizations create customized training programs that combine technical instruction with on-the-job learning experiences. (Photo: Georgia Department of Economic Development/GDEcD)

Georgia’s top-notch talent pipeline is a result of innovative workforce development programs such as WorkSource Georgia, the High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) and Georgia WorkSmart, which collectively help to improve the quality of job training and marketability of Georgia’s workforce for the economic growth of the state.

“Our programs work because we leverage partnerships with key education and industry leaders to ensure that Georgians are not only trained for in-demand jobs, but have access to long-term, lucrative and rewarding careers,” said Ben Hames, Deputy Commissioner of Workforce, Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD).

The Peach State also is home to world-class robotics, automotive and aerospace training facilities as well as a thriving innovation ecosystem at the Georgia Centers of Innovation, which helped it to earn a second in the nation ranking as a Business Facilities Workforce Training Leader.

Exclusive to Georgia, the Centers of Innovation provide over 1,500 businesses each year the technical industry expertise, collaborative research and partnerships to help the State’s strategic industries connect, compete and grow globally. The Centers of Innovation provide valued-added services that assist companies in Georgia’s key industries to develop new products, services and markets through partnerships with state, federal and private institutions that comprise Georgia’s Innovation Ecosystem.

Companies that decide to locate or expand in Georgia often cite a highly skilled workforce as one of the top reasons why. For example, Honeywell recently announced it will locate a new software development center in Atlanta, creating 833 new jobs. The company was drawn to Georgia due to the availability of a skilled high-tech workforce and the technology ecosystem to support ongoing innovation.

“Atlanta offers us access to some of the brightest and most-innovative software talent in the U.S.,” said Krishna Mikkilineni, Honeywell senior vice president of engineering, operations and IT.

The project is expected to have an overall economic impact of more than $183 million in 2020, when the center reaches full employment.

WorkSource Georgia provides training and employment service programs for individuals and businesses statewide. Individuals can attend skills training at educational providers such as the Technical College System of Georgia or be directly placed into work based learning programs where they learn while on the job as a full time employee. Businesses can utilize programs which may help recruit and train qualified applicants, assist with training new hires during their first few months on the job, or even up-skill their current workforce to support growth and reduce the risk of dislocations.

The program is far-reaching, with WorkSource Georgia Career Centers located in 19 Local Workforce Development Areas (LWDAs) in each region of the state. These centers serve as the “boots” on the ground and are the first points of contact for tapping into the program’s employment-driven resources.

When Eaton Aerospace identified a skills gap in their workforce, they realized aggressive action would be needed to remain competitive. Partnering with WorkSource Georgia Mountains, the company was able to utilize a proven training program from North Georgia Technical College.

WorkSource Georgia Mountains helped facilitate and provide an expedited and customized curriculum for Eaton, retraining over 100 employees to provide them with the necessary skills to keep the company operating efficiently and effectively. Altogether, Eaton Aerospace protected 100 jobs through increased productivity. Since this time, the company has expanded and created new employment opportunities in the region.

The High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) was launched by Gov. Deal in 2014 to hear directly from businesses about their training and workforce development needs. HDCI connects those responsible for the state’s economic development efforts and those responsible for training Georgia’s future workforce with employers.

In 2016, HDCI launched two new initiatives, the HDCI Industry Task Forces and HDCI Sector Partnerships, which are designed to address the acute workforce challenges of specific industries throughout the state. The task forces are composed of business representatives and stakeholders from the workforce development and education communities.

“With the incorporation of the HDCI Industry Task Forces, we are able to really dive in and address the acute workforce shortages within several high-demand industries,” said Jamie Jordan, High Demand Career Initiative Program Manager, GDEcD.

Georgia WorkSmart is a statewide work-based learning initiative launched by GDEcD in October 2015. This program assists private businesses, workforce organizations and educational entities in developing and implementing apprenticeships, internships and other work-based training models.

A primary workforce training model promoted by Georgia WorkSmart is Registered Apprenticeship. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, the Technical College System of Georgia and other education and state agency partners, Georgia WorkSmart helps organizations create flexible, customizable training programs that combine job related technical instruction with structured on-the-job learning experiences.

Having strong partnerships is essential to the success of not only Georgia WorkSmart, but to all work-based learning programs across the State. Georgia has an incredibly committed Technical College System that has both the required resources and knowledge to provide the related training for many of Georgia’s work-based learning programs currently in place.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Georgia team provides technical assistance and the ability to act as subject matter experts on many different types of training models being employed. When combined with GDEcD’s direct connection to local businesses, Georgia has created a unified, system-wide commitment to both the private industries and the Georgians it serves.


The exceptional education, skill and work ethic of Minnesota’s workforce is recognized nationwide and is a key advantage for attracting and retaining business. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s (DEED) Business Development Office helps businesses with their workforce challenges and provides grants through the Minnesota Job Training Partnership Program and Job Training Incentive Program that help with specific training needs.

In addition, the SciTechsperience Internship Program and the partnership-driven Minnesota Apprenticeship Program are crucial to developing pipelined talent in the trades and STEM occupations.

The Minnesota Job Skills Partnership

The Minnesota Job Skills Partnership works with businesses and educational institutions to train or retrain workers, expand work opportunities—and keep high-quality jobs in the state.

Last fall, DEED awarded $2.1 million in workforce development grants in two program areas: the Partnership Program, which provides funding for customized training at educational institutions for employees at Minnesota businesses; and the Low-Income Worker Training Program, which helps low-income workers gain job skills in growing fields such as building trades, advanced manufacturing and healthcare, as well as attain greater economic self-sufficiency.

“Over 286,000 Minnesotans have received training funded by the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership program, which has seen tremendous success in preparing Minnesotans for jobs of the future,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy. “The Low-Income Worker Training grants are essential to introducing people to occupations with income stability and solid growth prospects.”

The 2016 program results include an impressive 50 grants and $5.9 million awarded, leveraging $13.2 million in funds by participating businesses and training 7,429 new and current workers.

Job Training Incentive Program

DEED’s Job Training Incentive Program provides funding to help new or expanding businesses in Greater Minnesota train workers. The program, created by the Minnesota Legislature in 2015, provides training grants of up to $100,000 to new or expanding businesses. Businesses must match the training grants on a 1-to-1 basis and create at least three new jobs.

Case in point is Aki Development LLC of Cass Lake, a LED lighting assembly and testing startup, located in northwest Minnesota, a region that faces distinct workforce challenges, including a double-digit unemployment rate.

Aki (meaning earth in Ojibwe) Development, the first U.S. solar manufacturer on tribal lands, was awarded a $29,000 job-training grant from this program. The funding will enable Aki to work with the Leech Lake Tribal College in Cass Lake to develop classes that will teach up to nine new workers how to manufacture and install photovoltaic panels.

Along with Aki, seven other small Minnesota companies were awarded funding this year from the program, including Black Swan Cooperage (Park Rapids), Minnesota National Agency (Long Prairie), Sterns Assembly (Brainerd), Alexandria Pro-Fab (Alexandria), Mortek Inc. (Osakis), Kraft (New Ulm) and Long Prairie Packing (Long Prairie).

SciTechsperience Internship Program

Minnesota is going to need 155,000 skilled workers in STEM by 2020 to keep up with retiring baby boomers and new technologies.

The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and the DEED’s SciTechsperience Internship Program—now in its sixth year—helps to address Minnesota’s STEM workforce needs by developing top talent in the state. This paid internship program connects college students in STEM disciplines with rewarding, hands-on opportunities at small Minnesota companies that need their skills.

“SciTechsperience enables employers to find future employees, advance short-term business objectives and accelerate product development efforts,” said Becky Siekmeier, SciTechsperience Program Director. “Interns are a tremendous asset because they bring fresh perspectives and specialized skill sets to a company.”

The Minnesota State Legislature appropriated $2 million in grant funding to fund 450 STEM internships for 2016-17. On average, for every $1.00 of matching grants invested by the State of Minnesota, businesses participating in the SciTechsperience Internship Program paid $2.69 in wages to participating interns—a great return on investment. To date, SciTechsperience has helped more than 650 students find paid internships in hundreds of small to medium-sized science and tech companies.

“One of our challenges is identifying and hiring great talent to support our growing business,” said Catherine Gillis of Mobile Composer, a Minneapolis-based startup. “SciTechsperience has been a very valuable resource in helping us reach the next generation of software developers. SciTechsperience’s database of potential candidates and recruiting efforts as well as the matching grant makes the process easy and affordable. We recommend it to any small business interested in growing its tech workforce.”

Participating businesses receive a dollar-for-dollar cash match for up to 50 percent of the intern’s wages ($2,500 maximum), providing a low-cost solution for small and medium-sized companies that otherwise would not have access to qualified interns.

PlastiCert, a small custom plastic injection molder located in Lewiston, in southeast Minnesota, is another SciTechsperience employer. “Having additional engineering-caliber help to address worthy projects is huge,” said Craig Porter, PlastiCert owner and president. “A program that helps make that economically viable is a win for students, manufacturers and Minnesota’s economy.”