The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted and accelerated two trends that were already occurring in the American workplace: First, the demand for new skills and competencies, including digital skills, from workers at every level. Second, the growing importance of investing in employer-based upskilling strategies that can help already-employed workers adapt to changing skill needs on the job, as well as new jobseekers who are preparing for employment at a particular company.
A new report from National Skills Coalition provides a roadmap for state policymakers and skills advocates eager to take action on these issues. Funding Resilience: How public policies can support businesses in upskilling workers for a changing economy details the strengths and shortcomings of state incumbent worker training funds, and makes recommendations for better state policies in this important area.
Even before the pandemic, the US was not investing nearly enough in proven strategies to help incumbent workers upskill and new workers enter jobs. Today, only thirty states provide any dedicated state funds for incumbent-worker training — and among those that do, funding reaches only a tiny fraction of potentially eligible workers and businesses.
Funding Resilience details the current landscape of state policies that support employers’ in-house upskilling efforts, and explains the major bottlenecks and barriers preventing widespread replication of effective practices. Some of these barriers can be addressed through simple revenue-neutral changes that will not affect state budgets, such as making application cycles more frequent to match the speed of business.
The report makes recommendations for how policymakers can take action to change the trajectory and equip more businesses to implement upskilling programs that respond to emerging labor market demands. These timely ideas are particularly relevant for policymakers spearheading COVID recovery efforts, especially given that many businesses will need support for rapid re-skilling as previously unemployed workers return to the labor market.
To preview the report’s conclusion: States with existing incumbent worker policies should strengthen them, and those without such policies should advance them. Reinvigorating state incumbent worker training policies is necessary to ensure that the essential workers and industries that the United States depends on can flourish in a post-pandemic economy.
Enthusiastic advocacy from businesses and workers – combined with the growing public recognition that existing workforce investments are simply not sufficient for the present moment – can provide the momentum necessary to galvanize policymakers to act.
Get all the details in the full Funding Resilience report.