Four Key Strategies for Leveraging Federal Workforce Investments


  • Michael Bartlett
April 12, 2024 - (4 min read)

Preparing a skilled workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow remains a top concern among local elected officials. Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which outlines the federally funded workforce system, local elected officials are given an important role in guiding the deployment of resources and setting policies that support workforce and economic development. WIOA is designed to enhance the employability, skills, and success of the American workforce, with a strong emphasis on local control and flexibility, encouraging the development of strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors that are responsive to and aligned with local industry and economic development. The current on-the-ground implementation of WIOA is guided by a comprehensive state planning process.

Under WIOA, local entities, including Chief Elected Officials (CEOs) and Workforce Development Boards (WDBs), play crucial roles in shaping workforce development activities. CEOs, typically mayors or county executives, oversee the governance and strategic direction, while WDBs focus on local planning, policy development, and coordination of services. CEOs are responsible for appointing members to the local Workforce Development Board (WDB) or overseeing the appointment process. Local leaders also provide leadership and oversight to the WDB, ensuring alignment with WIOA guidelines and collaborative goal setting, and should participate in developing the local workforce development plan, outlining strategies, resource allocation, and priorities, and ensuring coordination and alignment with broader local economic development goals. City leaders have the opportunity to stay informed and proactively contribute to WIOA state plan development.

Under WIOA, states are required to submit four-year state plans to the U.S. Department of Labor. State planning guides the implementation of workforce development strategies at the state and local levels.

The WIOA State Plan development process has become more strategic in nature to ensure alignment of workforce development strategies with historic federal investments made possible through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Local leaders should be aware of these investments within their jurisdictions and advocate for partnering with the workforce development system. State planning guides the implementation of workforce development strategies at the state and local level, but the state plan submission should be viewed as one critical milestone in an ongoing collaborative relationship between partners across the federal, state, and local workforce development system.

NLC recommends local governments consider taking the following steps to connect and align with state planning efforts:

1. Stay Informed and Engaged
  1. Attend and promote local public forums and meetings related to state planning, advocating for policies addressing local workforce challenges.
  2. Regularly check the U.S. Department of Labor and your state workforce agency websites for updates and information on WIOA planning and implementation like this.
2. Collaborate with State Workforce Agencies
  • Foster relationships with state workforce agencies, sharing insights, challenges, and opportunities specific to the local community.
  • Offer relevant local workforce data to state agencies, aiding in the identification of trends, skills gaps, and industry needs.
  • Work to align local and regional economic development goals with state workforce strategies for a cohesive planning process.
3. Amplify Local Voices for Equitable, Quality Pathways
  • Facilitate community engagement to gather input from residents, employers, and stakeholders, ensuring diverse perspectives representative of the local community in state planning. This will require meeting priority populations where they to ensure inclusion of youth and young adults, individuals with barriers including those with disabilities, persons from underserved communities, and those adversely affected by inequality.
  • Ensuring state planning considers the basic needs and challenges of residents, including, but not limited to, childcare, housing, transportation, mental health, trauma-informed care, and food at a reasonable cost in limited situations.
4. Build Local Capacity
  • Encourage partnerships between local educational institutions and employers to ensure training programs meet industry needs.
  • Stay informed about funding opportunities and advocate for resources that address local workforce needs.

Through thoughtful local and regional engagement, planning, and strategic implementation, WIOA aims to create a workforce system that is responsive, innovative, and poised for sustained success in the years to come. Local government officials play a pivotal role in shaping the success of WIOA implementation. By actively participating in the state planning process, CEOs and other officials contribute to the development of effective and targeted workforce strategies that benefit their communities, promote economic growth, and address the unique challenges faced by local residents.

Connect with NLC

From May 29-31, our Education Policy Advisors Network (EPAN) is bringing together municipal workforce partners to uplift opportunities and build capacity for impactful youth employment. If you are a member of EPAN and would like to join us in Denver next month, contact NLC.

About the Author

Michael Bartlett

About the Author

Michael Bartlett is the Program Director, Postsecondary and Workforce Success at the National League of Cities.