Interstate Workforce Development Squad

Interstate Workforce Development Squad

Indiana’s been on a major workforce development kick this year with programs like the Next Level Jobs initiative and other specialized regional and academic programs taking shape in all of the state’s major economic development sectors. Now, a new plan aims to take things even further. An interstate partnership was announced recently as part of a cumulative effort on behalf of multiple governors to bring resources together to accelerate workforce innovation.

Twenty state governors, including Indiana’s, have teamed up to form the Skillful State Network, a collaboration that aims to transform the U.S. labor market into one that is skills-based where people can demonstrate or obtain skills needed for good digital economy jobs. Under this new model, value will be placed on those skills no matter where they were obtained.

The network marks the national expansion of an initiative called Skillful that was created in Colorado by the Markle Foundation, a charitable organization concerned with technology, health care, and national security. The mission of Skillful is to transition the labor market into one that is skills-based – wherein a person could be deemed qualified for a position based on the skills they have, not the degree they have.

“The transition to the digital economy has brought tremendous opportunity for some, but it has also shattered career paths and traditional jobs leaving many Americans deeply concerned about their future.” (Skillful)

Largely, what Skillful is focusing on has a direct correlation to many of the concerns shared among Indiana’s older workers who have experienced considerable changes throughout their careers. As explained by the organization, “The transition to the digital economy has brought tremendous opportunity for some, but it has also shattered career paths and traditional jobs leaving many Americans deeply concerned about their future. Artificial intelligence and automation are transforming the workforce in unprecedented fashion. Particularly vulnerable to these changes are the nearly seven out of ten American adults who do not have a four-year college degree.”

As such, the organization uses data to support employers in implementing skills-based hiring practices that can open up their talent pool while also aligning training programs to teach the skills that are in demand. These elements connect in a very complimentary way to the endeavors Indiana is taking with the Next Level Jobs initiative.

“Our focus in Indiana is preparing our workforce for jobs available now and in the years to come,” Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb said. “Sharing workforce practices among Skillful State Network members and encouraging multiple pathways to success in a changing economy will strengthen our talent pool, meet employer demand, and put hardworking Hoosiers in high-need, high-wage careers of the future.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said, “We twenty governors, Republican and Democrat, are serious about transforming our labor markets in ways that will benefit our nation for decades to come.”

To establish a framework, the Skillful State Playbook, a free and publicly available resource, was launched at the same time the network was established. The playbook lays out the steps necessary to create a skills-based labor market using input from a range of sources, including numerous employers, tech companies like Microsoft and LinkedIn, educators, community organizations, and more. It also provides a model for the open sharing of best practices between states.

The problems that Indiana is facing with its skilled labor shortage are not particularly unique on the national level; many states are facing the same challenge. Each one of the states that has joined the Skillful State Network is bringing with them unique ideas about how to advance the workforce. Working together should enable the states to make the shift in methodology faster and at a bigger scale than states could achieve on their own.

“In just our formative conversations, I am so inspired by the variety of programs as well as cutting-edge pilots each Skillful State Network member is bringing to the table,” said Beth Cobert, CEO of Skillful. “Each state is unique, yet shares a commitment to collaboration, experimentation, and progress.”

Among all of the resources the network presents to states, some of the biggest opportunities include being able to:

  • Share and learn from the unique insights of other member states,
  • Foster partnership opportunities,
  • Hone methods of engagement within their labor markets,
  • Receive advisory support from Skillful staff,
  • And more.

Indiana could very well stand out as a leader among this newly-formed network, as our Next Level Jobs initiative could serve as a model for other states to follow and build upon. In turn, our initiative will be exposed to new ideas from our partnering states, providing critiques that could inspire state officials to augment our already lofty plans even further.

However you look at it, the new partnership is a great way to strengthen what we’ve already started: finding new ways to train the one million Hoosiers we’ll need to train by 2025 to meet the labor projections experts are forecasting. It’s going to be a big job, so learning all we can from other states will likely be advantageous.


The 20 Founding Members of the Skillful State Network

  • Colorado, John Hickenlooper
  • Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson
  • Delaware, John Carney
  • Illinois, Bruce Rauner
  • Indiana, Eric Holcomb
  • Massachusetts, Charlie Baker
  • Montana, Steve Bullock
  • New Jersey, Phil Murphy
  • North Carolina, Roy Cooper
  • North Dakota, Doug Burgum
  • Ohio, John Kasich
  • Oklahoma, Mary Fallin
  • Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo
  • South Dakota, Dennis Daugaard
  • Tennessee, Bill Haslam
  • Utah, Gary Herbert
  • Vermont, Phil Scott
  • Virginia, Ralph Northam
  • Washington, Jay Inslee
  • Wisconsin, Scott Walker

Source: Markle, Skillful