US Government

States Are Leading the Way on the Future of Work

February 22, 2019  • Alastair Fitzpayne

This week, governors from across the country are gathering in Washington, D.C. to discuss new ideas to address the challenges and opportunities facing their states. Over the first few months of this year, most governors have delivered their State of the State addresses, laying out their vision for the future and proposing accompanying policy solutions. In these addresses, governors have highlighted how the nature of work is changing and what is needed to help people adjust and take advantage of these changes.

State legislators are also putting forward ideas to build a more competitive economy and help American workers—regardless of where they work—have the opportunity to earn a good living.

As the laboratories of democracy, states can test out innovative policies, and help inform the national conversation on what works and what doesn’t. Next week, we will publish a Future of Work State Policy Agenda to provide governors and state legislators with a menu of ideas to help address the challenges of a changing economy. This agenda includes ideas to modernize worker benefits and protections, build a skilled and resilient workforce, and align and prioritize future of work policy.

Fortunately, there have been a number of leaders at the state level who have already focused on responsive policy measures to increase investment in worker training, strengthen the safety net, and modernize the social contract by extending important protections to all workers. Below is a selection of the ideas we find most promising coming from outside of Washington, D.C.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb put a spotlight on the opportunities of technological innovations and the need for workforce readiness

In his State of the State address, Governor Holcomb called for an embrace of technological change as a way to move the state forward and encourage greater prosperity, announcing that the state will invest $100 million in broadband development, the largest single investment in broadband in Indiana’s history. He argued that developing a 21st century workforce is the defining issue of the decade, and outlined efforts and investments designed to meet the goal of ensuring 60 percent of Hoosier adults have a high-value credential beyond high school.

To accomplish this goal, Governor Holcomb called for an expansion of the state’s Workforce Ready Grant program to help more adults complete degrees or certificates in high-demand industries. Governor Holcomb also proposed to double the funding for Indiana’s Employer Training Grant to $20 million, which will provide financial support to Indiana companies to hire, train, and retain workers to fill job openings within Indiana’s six priority sectors: Advanced Manufacturing, Building & Construction, Information Technology & Business Services, Health & Life Sciences, Transportation & Logistics, and Agriculture.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee highlighted the need to expand alternative training pathways

In his State of the State address, Governor Inslee focused on the importance of opening up as many career pathways as possible for students graduating from high school, including apprenticeships, certificates, and degrees. Governor Inslee’s budget seeks to provide 100,000 students over the next 10 years with the ability to explore their career interests through apprenticeships, paid internships, and other learning opportunities through the Career Connect Washington initiative. Governor Inslee proposed $93 million in new investments to support the initiative.

In an effort to make education more affordable, the Governor proposed providing an additional $103 million to cover state financial aid for eligible students attending public and some private two- and four-year schools and apprenticeship programs.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced an expansion of investments in job creation and job training

In her State of the State address, Governor Raimondo highlighted the need for increased investments in education, particularly in career and technical education programs. Already, Rhode Island is the only state in America to teach computer science in every public school, an objective of the Computer Science for Rhode Island Initiative launched in 2016. Governor Raimondo also called for the transformation of the state’s community college system into a “workforce development engine.” The state’s budget proposes to expand its Real Jobs RI program, guaranteeing job training and apprenticeships for thousands more Rhode Islanders.

California Governor Gavin Newsom outlined a vision of a modern social compact for a changing workforce

In his State of the State address, Governor Newsom outlined the need for a comprehensive strategy to upskill California’s workforce to ensure that workers are prepared for a changing economy. Governor Newsom also called for the development of a modern social compact for California and spoke about the state’s new Commission on California’s Workforce & Future of Work.

Furthermore, the Newsom Administration is committed to expanding the state’s Paid Family Leave program and will convene a task force to consider different options to increase participation. The Governor’s budget proposal includes $40 million to support a second year of free tuition for community colleges in the state.

Massachusetts State Senator Eric Lesser introduced a first-of-its-kind future of work agenda to help workers adapt to a changing economy

In January, State Senator Eric Lesser introduced legislation that would establish a grant fund to design, implement or evaluate new methods for providing portable benefits—like health insurance, retirement savings accounts, or workers’ compensation. A second bill would establish Lifelong Learning & Training Accounts to give workers the ability to pay for training and skills development throughout their careers. Finally, a third bill would create a future of work commission to examine ways to “ensure sustainable jobs, fair benefits and workplace safety standards for all workers in all industries.” Similar to these proposals, the Future of Work Initiative has published a Benefits Innovation Fund issue brief and a Lifelong Learning & Training Accounts issue brief.

New Jersey State Senator Troy Singleton introduced legislation to incentivize greater investments in human capital

In January, Senator Singleton introduced legislation that would provide a new tax credit for employers that provide job training or work education programs for their employees. At a time when technology is changing the skills needed to perform work, employers have a critical role to play in helping their employees become lifelong learners. The proposal provides a 10 percent employer tax credit, up to $2,000 per employee. Qualified businesses would include those that have less than $2.5 million in gross receipts annually, that have been operating in the state for fewer than 10 years, and that employ individuals in the state. Similar proposals have been outlined by the Future of Work Initiative and in the NewDEAL Forum Future of Work agenda.

Virginia Delegate Kathy Byron introduced legislation to create a worker training investment tax credit

House Delegate Kathy Byron proposed a worker training investment tax credit, which would provide a tax credit to businesses that provide eligible worker training. In addition, the credit is targeted toward businesses that provide manufacturing instruction to students. The bill has already passed the House and the Senate, and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Separately, through the Tech Talent Investment Fund, Virginia will offer grants to higher education institutions to help them provide more computer science degrees. The goal is to produce up to 17,500 more bachelor’s degrees in computer science over the next 20 years.