Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century

July 2, 2015
By Steve Shepelwich, Senior Community Development Advisor


Labor markets in the United States are undergoing significant change. Globalization, rapid technological change, shifting demographics and the lingering uncertainties brought on by the Great Recession are affecting the environment for workers, employers and other stakeholders concerned with getting America to work.

Workforce development policies and programs, many of which were developed decades ago, are struggling to remain relevant.

Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century, a new book to be released in early August by the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Kansas City and the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, tackles this straight on by presenting new visions for transformative education and workforce development policies and programs. Nearly 70 leading scholars and practitioners present research and case studies addressing potential reforms to strengthen workforce development policy.

The book is divided into four sections:
  1. Transforming the U.S. Workforce Development System examines how public policies shape the outcomes for workers, especially those facing significant employment barriers.
  2. Redesigning Workforce Development Strategies of needed education and training reforms for systems such as online education and training delivery, credentialing and career information management.
  3. Building Evidence-Based Policy and Practice explores the critical role of systematic data collection and its use in improving workforce services
  4. The final section focuses on these issues by looking at effective policies and practices for meeting the needs of specific segments of workers. Emphasis is placed on exploring evidence-based approaches that provide benefits for both workers and their employees.

Policymakers, scholars, practitioners, educators and labor market participants will find new perspectives, intriguing policy and practice examples and challenging recommendations to consider. This volume presents compelling evidence for the need for transforming current workforce policies as well as useful strategies to pursue.

The Federal Reserve has become increasingly involved in workforce development issues during the last several years. Beginning in 2011, the Federal Reserve Banks convened more than 32 meetings across the country with a broad range of stakeholders (findings from the meetings is available here). The need to improve coordination and effectiveness of the public workforce system was a consistent theme across these meetings. This book builds on those subsequent meetings to highlight important issues for broad discussion and debate.

The Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Kansas City and the Heldrich Center will build on the information and analysis presented in this book in multiple ways. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta will publish two companion pieces that explore models for workforce development intermediaries and career-based training for incumbent workers and under-served populations. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City will host forums in September across its District offices that will present information from this initiative for discussion with local stakeholders.  Additional events will be announced closer to the books release in August.