While Congress is still wrangling with budget and appropriations and passing legislation before focusing on the mid-term elections, state and local governments are hard at work as well, creating more opportunities to engage at the state level.
Nearly every one of the nation’s Governors have provided their state of the state addresses to their constituents. Click here to view the text of your Governor’s speech. Not surprising, many of the returning Governors began by focusing on accomplishments of the last year. Those ranged from the number of jobs created, the number of bills signed into law, to amount of investments made and key results. However, 25 states were facing budget shortfalls in the beginning of the year, and many Governors addressed this fiscal situation in their states.
Job creation and the skills gap was a major theme in all of the speeches, affirming the important work of local Goodwills in providing job training and workforce development to those who face challenges to employment. Alabama Governor Kay Ivy recognized a worker who has benefited from similar services provided by Easter Seals. Specifically, Caryn McDade attended the Governor’s Disability Job Fair. “As a teenager, Caryn’s learning disabilities plagued her until she saw no alternative other than dropping out of school. She took GED classes at the Birmingham Career Center and was referred to the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services to work on resumé writing, job development, interviewing and placement. Rehabilitation Services paired her with Harold Reynolds, an employment specialist with Easter Seals of Birmingham, to prepare her for job interviews at the job fair… By the end of the week, she was employed full-time as a home health care aide.”
Among the populations served by local Goodwills, unfortunately people with disabilities and people who face homelessness were the two mentioned least collectively in the speeches. On the other hand, the needs of veterans and people with criminal backgrounds were commonly discussed. Many also discussed mental health and the need for better drug treatment as the country still faces an opioid epidemic.
Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper addressed the skills gap in his final address, noting, “…to create the kind of workforce that will keep our state at the forefront of the new economy, we need to go beyond the funding issue – we need to rethink and retool our approach. We need to transition from a degree-based education system to one that also includes skill-based training. Experts tell us over sixty percent of our kids in school today will not get a 4-year degree. Careers and professions by the dozens will be swept away in the coming decades. But new industries will emerge at an equally frantic rate. We will need not just engineers but huge numbers of technicians and analysts with new sets of skills. We need to get more kids learning skills that matter.”
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and career and technical education was also a common theme. Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal emphasized the career opportunities that vocational schools can offer and announced that the he will be moving the state’s Division of Workforce Development to the Technical College System. Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter spoke about a Workforce Development Task Force created last year. He stated, “My budget reflects the Task Force recommendations that we invest in expanding capacity at our post-secondary technical schools, in providing additional incentive funding for high school career-technical programs, and in expanding Career Technical Education (CTE) offerings to the seventh and eighth grades. I’m also calling for development of more online CTE classes, and increased support for our six regional Workforce Training Centers.”
Finally, on the heels of the Trump Administrations focus on apprenticeships, some Governors spoke about the ways apprenticeships can help strengthen their workforce. In Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb set a goal to, “establish a state work-based learning and apprenticeship office that will increase the number of these opportunities from 12,500 to 25,000 by the end of 2019, moving Indiana into the top five in the country.”
While some of the political rhetoric made it very clear if the Governor was speaking in a “blue” state or a “red” state there was a common theme of using bipartisan approaches, collaboration across all stakeholders, and the need to work together. You are a stakeholder within your state and should look for opportunities to engage around the issues of importance to you and your community, your local Goodwill, and the individuals served.