NASHVILLE — The Council of State Governments (CSG) released a major report today by its National Task Force on Workforce Development and Education designed to grow state economies and address workforce challenges entitled “State Pathways to Prosperity.” The task force and four subcommittees which developed the report is chaired by Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), who also served as chairman of the CSG last year.

The initiative provides a policy and practice framework for states to better address workforce needs and strategies to equip citizens with the skills, knowledge and qualifications needed for the 21st century global economy. The report involved more than a year of study, dialogue and deliberations by state officials from both parties, all regions of the U.S. and from diverse perspectives. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) is also a member of the task force.

“Norris’ vision transcended state boundaries and political ideology and became a robust rallying point for state leaders from throughout America,” said David Adkins, CSG Executive Director/CEO. “CSG’s State Pathways to Prosperity Initiative builds on Chair Norris’ personal experience which helped shape recent innovations in Tennessee, one of the nation’s leaders in workforce development and education reforms.”

Norris sponsored Tennessee’s successful Labor, Education and Alignment Program (LEAP) in 2013 which provided for cooperative efforts between government education and businesses to fill the skills gap in local workforce pools, while increasing the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees.

“Chair Norris knew what may not seem obvious to the casual observer – that child poverty, criminal justice issues, hunger and nutrition and military and veterans’ concerns presented an array of obstacles to matching people with 21st century jobs,” Adkins added. “He connected the dots and provided CSG with a roadmap, challenging CSG to address some of the most entrenched barriers to achieving the American Dream. Because of this unique perspective, this report does more than amplify the good work being done by many in this field; it breaks new ground and for the first time provides a comprehensive approach to understanding and reducing obstacles to achieving prosperity.”

The report maintains that states can play a key role in workforce development by investing in a range of evidence-based strategies—from support for public infrastructure and technological innovation, to the availability of high-quality education and training systems for workers. But attaining higher levels of education goes beyond economic returns; it also corresponds to improved health, lower mortality rates and lower crime rates. Higher levels of education for parents help ensure their children are less likely to grow up in poverty and become poor as adults. It also is positively associated with children’s health, cognitive abilities and academic achievement.

“Workforce development and relevant education present, at once, some of the greatest challenges—as well as opportunities—of our time,” said Leader Norris. “We all want to see the kind of improvement in quality of life that flows from a skilled workforce gainfully employed in our states. State Pathways to Prosperity is The Council of State Governments’ workforce development and education initiative designed to facilitate that objective.”

“This report reflects CSG’s continuing role in the effort underway across the United States to build a ready workforce equipped with a relevant education to embrace the advanced manufacturing opportunities now returning to our shores,” Norris continued. “In short, this report and its recommendations demonstrate CSG’s commitment to be an active participant in the nationwide effort to close the ‘skills gap’ standing between too many of our citizens and opportunities for meaningful employment.”

Experts agree the United States will not have enough adequately trained workers for future jobs without efforts at the federal, state and local levels to increase entry into postsecondary education, provide community-based training of adults and increase implementation of job-driven training strategies. A recent prediction estimated a loss of $1.7 trillion in the U.S. economy by 2030 if improvements are not made in postsecondary education to bridge the skills gap.

“The ‘train and pray’ education and employment policies of the past no longer work,” Norris added. “Anticipating the needs of business and industry requires learning to look beyond, not at, the horizon. Building a stronger economy—one that consists of a skilled workforce, declining unemployment and increasing gross domestic product—will require a sustained effort, such as an ongoing CSG workforce development and education program designed to assist and benefit state governments. Not only must this effort be content rich for teaching purposes, but it also should provide cost-saving services to states and to individual policymakers alike.”

“There is much to be said for the success that comes from leveraging existing resources, and we hope this report contributes to that endeavor in a meaningful way,” he concluded.

Founded in 1933, The Council of State Governments is the nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. The report can be found at: http://www.csg.org/programs/documents/Pathways_to_Prosperity_Report.pdf

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