As the nation’s governors, we see firsthand the challenges of our future workforce. Our national unemployment rate is at near-historic lows and in Montana at the lowest in over a decade, yet we know that workers are worried about their futures in a changing labor market. Business owners, too, are concerned about finding employees close to home with the skills to compete globally.
We also see opportunity and we put partisanship aside to realize economic opportunities for all Americans.
Over the past year as chair of the National Governors Association, through my chair’s initiative, Good Jobs for All Americans, I have heard about the challenges and opportunities in places as diverse as the former steel town of Pittsburgh, the desert metropolis of Las Vegas, and the rural plains around Des Moines, and learned valuable lessons about how states are innovating and looking to the future.
This week, nearly 30 states, industry representatives and partners are gathering in Whitefish for a Solutions Summit to talk about what we have learned over the past year. We will begin the process of turning a new set of tools governors across the nation can use as they set the course for opportunities for their citizens — now and into the future.
Here are a few key takeaways.
1: We need to adjust to the new world of work.
Across the board, we heard that a good job is one that provides both a family-sustaining wage and pathways to continued career growth. We also recognize that many of the jobs our children will hold have not been created or even imagined yet, which requires us to continually identify and develop in-demand skills.
Kentucky developed public-sector apprenticeships in 2018. Recognizing the skill needs across state government, in only a matter of months the state set up a program and hired apprentices in high-demand occupations including computer support specialist and automotive technician specialist across multiple state agencies.
In Montana, businesses can engage in our Registered Apprenticeship Program to build a highly customizable and skilled workforce to meet their needs in more than 100 occupations. This opportunity connects students and workers with on-the-job training while helping employers fill jobs with homegrown talent.
2: We can’t do this alone.
Partnerships are vital to developing solutions and creating access to Good Jobs for All Americans. We need business, education and workforce to collaborate, not just statewide but also regionally.
I learned recently about Family Futures Downeast, a program in Maine that seeks to end the cycle of rural poverty by enrolling parents in evening college classes to advance their career paths. To achieve this goal, two postsecondary institutions, a local workforce center, two community development nonprofits and an early education provider work together to offer education and wrap-around services such as transportation, childcare and housing.
3: We need to spread access to good jobs for all Americans.
One challenge we face as governors is spreading opportunity to the communities that need it the most. No one should have to leave their community, school or church to find a good job.
In some of our most rural communities in Montana, we are spearheading the Main Street Montana initiative and bringing together key industry leaders to bolster workforce opportunities through entrepreneurship, outdoor recreation and tourism while tackling challenges with housing, childcare and broadband.
As chair of the National Governors Association, I’ve shared Montana’s successes with other states and states have shared with us their lessons learned. Governors across the country have a reinforced commitment to achieve economic opportunity, now and in the decades to come, for all Americans.
Steve Bullock is the chair of the National Governors Association and is in his second term as the governor of Montana.