In this Issue...

April 01, 2010
By  Allen North

Workforce development is a critical component of our country’s and communities’ economic strategies. Where there is a vibrant, educated workforce with the skills employers need, there is a foundation for individual asset building and community economic growth. Without a strong workforce, such asset building and growth cannot occur.

Considering today’s economy and the high rate of unemployment, rebuilding a powerful labor pool is a pressing need for our country. This issue of Bridges focuses on the topic of workforce development and what is being done to strengthen America’s workforce.

In the cover story, Fed public policy specialist Andrew Pack takes a high-level look at the federal government’s workforce development programs and how they are implemented at the state level. He emphasizes that state governments bear the responsibility for building strong workforces because they know their economies better than anyone. At the same time, the author cautions that states will not succeed at this task unless they are authorized to use federal monies in ways that are appropriate for their economies.

Also in this issue, representatives of several state and local governments in the Eighth District addressed the following questions:

  • What are the workforce development priorities in your state?
  • What policies have been implemented to address the needs of the displaced?
  • What, if any, new industry sectors have located in your state?

With workforce development and job creation a top priority in 2010, one commonality iterated by all state-level representatives is the necessity to build workforces that align workers’ skills with the needs of employers. For some states, that means collaborating with community colleges on retraining programs. In several states, it means a focus on “green” jobs and technology. For one state, it means retraining blue-collar workers for white-collar jobs.

Finally, several programs that help people re-enter the workplace are highlighted. These programs, and others like them, may be of interest to financial institutions. Investments or loans made to these types of organizations are eligible for consideration under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) as they support economic development, primarily in low- and moderate-income communities.

Bridges is a regular review of regional community and economic development issues. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.

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