Guide to Learning About Local Workforce Systems

Economic growth depends on a skilled workforce that can meet employers’ changing needs, and much of the effort to build the US workforce is happening at the local level. Localities across the nation are collaborating and strategizing in new ways to grow their local workforces, spurred by economic challenges and changes in federal workforce and education policies and programs.

There has never been a more important time for people to learn about local workforce systems, yet gaining an understanding of these complex systems is a challenge. Local workforce systems are intricate webs of funding sources, programs, organizational missions, target populations, and labor market demands. 

Urban Institute scholars created this Guide to Local Workforce Systems to help people understand local workforce systems: what they are, what they do, strategies they use, and how stakeholders connect and collaborate. They hope this information will provide a basic understanding of local workforce systems and the strategies stakeholders are using to prepare people for employment, support workers who are trying to advance in their careers, and create a skilled workforce to support local industry. 

Who should use this guide?

  • mayor's office strategists wanting to get a big picture of the complex network of institutions involved in improving and promoting skills,
  • economic planners and employers exploring what types of institutions provide training in their community,
  • social service providers trying to understand the language and landscape of job training in local communities, and
  • staff from organizations providing supports, such as housing, transportation, and child care for low-income populations, who want to understand potential links to workforce development
  • people who are new to the workforce development field, but want to understand the bigger picture of the local workforce system and find out about options for strategies
  • students, educators, and anyone else who wants to learn more about local workforce systems

What is a local workforce system?

What are the functions of a local workforce system?

Who uses local workforce system programs and services?

What organizations are part of local workforce systems?

What are key activities that help workforce systems run?