The COVID-19 pandemic left hundreds of thousands unemployed and underemployed. In response to the pandemic and economic downturn, state leaders are working to improve employment through workforce development initiatives. And an influx of federal funds to support residents through the economic downturn has given state leaders an opportunity to address the crises their residents are experiencing head-on by providing pathways to gain new skills through education and training programs. Some states sought to commit a portion of these funds to invest in and leverage their state data systems to improve education and employment opportunities. With robust and responsive data systems, state leaders are able to answer their most pressing questions about how COVID-19 has shaped workforce needs and how to address them.
The following are examples of states that have capitalized on the current moment to better support their residents’ education and workforce opportunities:
- Texas allocated $15 million of the state’s Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds to invest in its education and workforce data system, including expanding and scaling existing technologies and tools that support college and career advising. With this funding, institutions will be able to support students pursuing credentials. Ten million dollars of GEER funds were also allocated to improve institutional capacity to report and analyze data to help students successfully progress in their education. These investments will improve institutions’ abilities to help individuals receive the resources needed to access and succeed in various education and workforce opportunities.
- The Maryland state legislature passed a bill that would create a commission to study the healthcare workforce crisis in the state, which includes examining methods to improve transitions and establish pathways of active duty and retired military to the civilian healthcare workforce. The study would help decisionmakers understand how the pandemic is impacting the healthcare industry in the state and address workforce needs in the short and long term.
- Florida invested approximately $3 million of its GEER funds in its data system to follow the outcomes of non-degree granting programs—including apprenticeships and certificate programs—and create a Pathway to Job Market dashboard. Currently, Florida’s state data system does not capture critical information about non-degree programs, including the outcomes of people who participate in these programs. Capturing this data more systematically using the dashboard will help leaders evaluate the quality of these programs. And those seeking to reskill need data to ensure they are entering education and training programs that will lead to positive outcomes.
Additional federal investments in workforce development programs and pathways could come to states as Congress considers the FY 2023 budget. This focus on workforce development alongside other federal activities could spur new state investments in workforce initiatives. State leaders should use the resources available to them to leverage their current data systems and make important investments as they work to support individuals pursuing education and workforce opportunities.