50-State Comparison: State Policy Models for Connecting Education to Work

When it comes to leveraging postsecondary education to support state workforce development and individuals seeking jobs in their local economies, collaborative connections are key. Frequently, making these connections in states relies on multiple agencies working together.

This 50-State Comparison supports efforts to connect by identifying:

  • Existing or potential ways to activate collaboration between state actors and across policies.
  • Key players in each state’s landscape of efforts to connect education to work and to connect governmental actors across siloed agencies who share similar goals for workforce development.
  • State actors currently involved in a state’s career pathway system, illustrating how leadership of these systems varies across states and stimulating conversation about which state actors should be involved.
  • State programs that connect citizens with financial resources to facilitate credential completion, leading to productive participation in a state’s labor market.

Workforce Investment Boards

Each state participates in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which prescribes certain types of activities and organizational structures for states to direct federal investments in workforce development. Participation in WIOA requires a state to create a workforce investment board with duties such as developing, implementing and modifying the state WIOA plan and reviewing and recommending changes to statewide policy. In addition, the state board is responsible for developing funding formulas for distributing federal and state workforce investment dollars.

Career Pathway Systems

A career pathway system is made up of multiple programs that span educational institutions, workforce entities and support service partners. These systems are oriented around a shared understanding of the needs of industries. Career pathway systems are one of many policy models states use to help connect education and workforce in the K-12, postsecondary and workforce governance systems. Administration of pathway systems varies across states, from single agency oversight — such as the K-12 system — to combined oversight models that are administered by K-12, postsecondary and workforce agencies.

Financial Aid for Workforce Development

States may offer incentives to attract postsecondary students to specific fields of study to fill identified workforce shortages. Identified shortage areas are often referred to as high-demand fields, which vary by state and region. The development of such financial aid programs is typically fueled by analysis of state workforce data or through collaboration with local employers.

50-State Comparisons

Click on a question below to see data for all states.

  1. What is the name of the state entity that fulfills the role of the state’s workforce investment board for the purposes of WIOA?
  2. Which agency is the primary coordinator of the state’s career pathway system?
  3. Does state statute define at least one financial aid program for individuals pursuing a postsecondary credential that is connected to workforce development needs?

To view a specific state’s approach, go to the state profiles page.

Key Takeaways

  • All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have a workforce investment board.
  • Twelve states’ career pathway systems are coordinated primarily by a K-12 agency, and six are coordinated primarily by a postsecondary agency.
  • Twenty-six states have at least one financial aid program to support students pursuing postsecondary education for high-demand labor fields.

Related Resources

Approaches to State Workforce Development Systems

SOURCE: Education Commission of the States