Workforce Development

As a critical component of economic development, the CEDS should highlight employer-driven, place-based workforce development efforts as an essential underpinning of the broader economic development strategy. To that end, when addressing workforce development in the creation or update of the CEDS, ensure any efforts:

  • Are employer led to ensure skilled workers are connected to quality job opportunities.
  • Are guided by multiple community partners such as educational institutions, labor unions, community-based organizations, and economic development organizations.
  • Include wrap-around services to support the most vulnerable populations.
  • Increase educational and workplace diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.
  • Prioritize proven earn and learn models like Registered Apprenticeships.
  • Lead to stackable, industry-recognized credentials and ensure that information about credentials is publicly accessible through the use of linked open data formats that support full transparency and interoperability. 
  • Measure and evaluate outcomes such as workers’ employment and earnings. Ensure that data is transparent, actionable, and linked back to those executing programs.
  • Build sustainable systems and partnerships that endure to serve employers and workers beyond the federal investment.
  • Connect workforce development to economic development (e.g., through the CEDS or CEDS Committee [see below]).
  • Encourage the use of other government and private funding.
  • Are coordinated across all levels of government (including federal).

The final point about coordinating efforts is crucial. While engaging all relevant stakeholders (public, private, educational, etc.) in activities such as curriculum development, training and/or work-based learning opportunities as central drivers for success, it is particularly important to make sure that the public sector players are aligned in their approaches. For example, it will be extremely helpful for the region’s workforce strategy to be aligned (and not in conflict) with the workforce strategy of local elected officials and the Workforce Investment Board (WIB). Moreover, having the local or regional WIB engaged in the development and/or review of the CEDS may further solidify these important linkages. Some regions have furthered these connections between economic and workforce development by inviting WIB leadership or other workforce officials to be ongoing participants on their CEDS Committees. For more information on WIBs, please check out the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) at

Value of Sectoral Partnerships

One way for regions to ensure workforce development initiatives are well-coordinated and impactful is by encouraging the use of sectoral partnerships. A sectoral partnership is formed by a critical mass of employers from the same industry who join with other strategic partners to train and place workers into good, high-quality jobs (see below) that meet the needs of the targeted industry. The strategic partners can include K-12 education, community colleges, universities, community-based organizations, workforce boards, unions, industry associations, and employer-serving organizations. Sectoral partnerships are highly-effective in building regional resilience by breaking down silos between industry and other key stakeholders, ensuring that workforce systems – including strong talent pipelines – are developed that meet the needs of a local economy.  Sectoral partnerships have been shown to improve training programs’ participation and completion rates and have resulted in better employment and earnings outcomes for workers. At the same time, employers gain access to qualified talent that can support growth and overall competitiveness. To learn more about sectoral partnerships, please see Next Generation Sectoral Partnerships (  In addition, check out EDA’s recent work supporting sectoral partnerships through its Good Jobs Challenge ( The Good Jobs Challenge links workforce development and economic development by connecting local leaders with a diverse set of partners to generate new ways to equitably grow regional economies.

Importance of Good Jobs

A focus on good, high-quality jobs should be a guiding concept within any workforce development strategy. Good jobs reflect a combination of key attributes (see below) and are vital to healthy regional economies and successful businesses. In fact, many businesses understand that providing good quality jobs make them an employer of choice and creates a clear competitive advantage when it comes to recruitment and retention of key talent. Building the capacity for economic development with an eye towards establishing and growing businesses in your region that strive for (and abide by) these good job principles can often make your region more economically competitive.

The Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor have partnered to identify the characteristics of a good job, and as a result have developed eight principles ( (PDF) to create a framework and shared vision of job quality for workers, businesses, labor unions, advocates, researchers, and all levels of government:

  • Recruitment and Hiring: Qualified applicants are actively recruited – especially those from underserved communities.
  • Benefits: Full-time and part-time workers are provided family-sustaining benefits that promote economic security and mobility.
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA): All workers have equal opportunity. Workers are respected, empowered, and treated fairly. DEIA is a core value and practiced norm in the workplace.
  • Empowerment and Representation: Workers can form and join unions. Workers can engage in protected, concerted activity without fear of retaliation. Workers contribute to decisions about their work, how it is performed, and organizational direction.
  • Job Security and Working Conditions: Workers have a safe, healthy, and accessible workplace, built on input from workers and their representatives. Workers have job security without arbitrary or discriminatory discipline or dismissal. They have adequate hours and predictable schedules.
  • Organizational Culture: All workers belong, are valued, contribute meaningfully to the organization, and are engaged and respected especially by leadership.
  • Pay: All workers are paid a stable and predictable living wage before overtime, tips, and commissions. Workers' pay is fair, transparent, and equitable. Workers' wages increase with increased skills and experience.
  • Skills and Career Advancement: Workers have equitable opportunities and tools to progress to future good jobs within their organizations or outside them. Workers have transparent promotion or advancement opportunities.

For more information on the principles and the Department of Commerce’s and Department of Labor’s Good Jobs Initiative, see

Recommended Resource

The Department of Commerce’s Job Quality Toolkit ( (PDF) provides strategies and actions to help small- and-medium-sized organizations recruit and retain a high-performing workforce.

Integrating Workforce Development into the CEDS

Because of the important connections between workforce development and economic development, consider multiple ways to incorporate workforce development within the CEDS. Specifically:

  • Take into account the workforce -- both in terms of regional composition and the corresponding skills sets -- when developing the background summary of the CEDS. 
  • Plan to make an examination of the region’s education and training infrastructure a key component of the SWOT analysis
  • Include specific measurable goals, objectives, and/or action items focused on workforce development both from the perspective of companies and of workers, and in particular, from underserved communities.
  • Determine how best to measure the impact (e.g., employment and earnings outcomes) of any workforce development efforts.

Finally, workforce development strategies can play a pivotal role in building regional resilience. In addition to enhancing resilience through sectoral partnerships (see above), another way to enhance regional resilience is to focus on workers gaining new skills. Regions’ unique mix of industries and talent should be prepared to evolve to face new challenges and opportunities – often requiring incumbent workers to acquire new skills. Consider developing specific strategies that will position the region to help its workforce contemplate a broad set of career options by learning different (or repurposing) skills for new and emerging opportunities.  In addition, look for ways for local industries facing specific workforce challenges to adopt a skills-first mindset in order to identify and access new sources of talent.  An emphasis on skills will help any workforce development strategy to be better positioned to handle a variety of economic disruptions and build long-term resilience (for more information, check out:

Please see the CEDS with particularly strong workforce development components (noted below) as inspiration for including workforce in your CEDS.

Recommended Resources

There are many helpful resources which can be used to build a strong workforce development component in the CEDS, among which are: the Bureau of Labor Statistics website (, including the BLS Occupation Outlook Handbook ( Other useful sites include STATS America’s Regionizer ( (provides county level occupation cluster data)) and Innovation Intelligence tools ( (provides industry cluster strength data)).

Brookings, as part of their Workforce of the Future initiative, has developed a useful tool ( that helps local economic development officials choose a successful growth strategy and provides a detailed analysis of the workforce implications of that strategy. From a workforce perspective, it can help regions determine the workforce requirements of different industries and help them learn about new, potential industries for the region based on the regional composition of the workforce.

The following web resources also provide useful information for workforce development considerations: (A) state and local workforce contacts can be found at (search for “Workforce Investment Boards” under the “Workforce Systems Contacts” link); (B) state labor market information can be found at (click on the “State Information” link); and (C) state occupational projections can be searched at

Check out the work of Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems at JFF is leading a Community of Practice (CoP) ( as an extension of EDA’s Good Jobs Challenge. Under JFF's leadership, the CoP will share best practices, provide technical assistance, and extend professional networks among the Good Jobs Challenge's 32 grantee organizations.

In addition to general resources, the following are some good examples of workforce development/considerations highlighted in the following CEDS: