Skillful State Network | Markle | Advancing America's Future
Skillful State Network | Markle | Advancing America's Future

Skillful State Network

Publication Date: February 14, 2018 | Back to Latest News

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, the Markle Foundation, and 20 States Launch the Skillful State Network; Introduce Skillful State Playbook

Governors of 20 founding member states join together to share and accelerate workforce innovation.

Announcement marks national expansion of Skillful, an initiative to create a skills-based labor market that better serves all Americans in a rapidly changing economy.

DENVER and NEW YORK – Today, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Zoë Baird, CEO and president of the Markle Foundation, announced that twenty governors are joining together to form the Skillful State Network, a collaboration to transform the U.S. labor market at scale to one that is skills-based, in which people can demonstrate or obtain the skills needed for good digital economy jobs. The Network marks the national expansion of Skillful, a Markle Foundation initiative incubated in Colorado, which leverages data and the very technologies that are disrupting the economy to achieve a skills-based labor market where employers are able to find the talent they need and individuals can continuously acquire new skills and keep up with the pace of change. Founding governors are committed to sharing what works and have made partnership and innovation in workforce development a state priority to enable their residents and local employers to thrive in the digital economy.

“As governors, we are joining together around a shared commitment to support a variety of career paths to good-paying jobs, and expand the talent pool for employers who need skilled workers to grow,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “We twenty governors, Republican and Democrat, are serious about transforming our labor markets in ways that will benefit our nation for decades to come. In a short time, Colorado’s partnership with Skillful has provided incredible value in supporting a skills-based, industry-driven talent marketplace.”

“Millions of Americans need to get connected to the skills and the jobs of our fast-changing digital economy,” said Baird. “The Skillful State Network was born out of the tremendous interest we’ve received from other states based on our work in Colorado. Governors have asked me to bring Skillful to their state and forming the Skillful State Network is a way to share our approach, tools and assets quickly. It also allows all of us to build on the great work being done in these states. States have always been laboratories for innovation and today are leading the transformation to the digital economy.”

The Skillful State Playbook, introduced today with the Network, lays out the steps needed to create a skills-based labor market. The Playbook offers tools and resources jointly developed by Skillful, the state of Colorado, and numerous employers, tech companies including Microsoft and LinkedIn, educators, and community organizations. The free and public availability of the Skillful State Playbook establishes a model for the open sharing of best practices. Skillful State Network members may tailor or improve tools in the Playbook and add their own tools and resources to the Network’s portfolio.

The Skillful State Network will support transformation at a scale and pace not possible through individual state actions. The Network will elevate and advance practices and ideas that states can adopt to achieve their workforce goals, including aligning education with industry; providing robust data to jobseekers; or training employers on skills-based practices. The Network is open to all interested states.

“In just our formative conversations, I am so inspired by the variety of programs as well as cutting-edge pilots each Skillful State Network member is bringing to the table,” said Beth Cobert, CEO of Skillful. “Each state is unique, yet shares a commitment to collaboration, experimentation, and progress.”

Skillful State Network members will have the opportunity to:

  • access the Skillful State Network portfolio of tools and data
  • learn how to implement the tools and assets featured in the Skillful State Playbook
  • share and learn from the unique insights drawn from each other’s efforts
  • foster innovative partnership opportunities
  • hone methods of engagement within their labor markets
  • receive advisory support from Skillful staff
  • gain access to Markle’s cross-sector network of national leaders and partners

For more information on the Skillful State Network, go here.

Those states interested in joining the network should contact Skillful CEO Beth Cobert at, (212) 713-7633.

Download the Skillful State Playbook here.

Find more information about Skillful here.

For media inquiries, please contact Markle Foundation’s
Claudia Husemann at (917) 536-5370 or Mary Allen at (212) 713-7632 or

About The Markle Foundation
The Markle Foundation works to realize the potential of technology to achieve breakthroughs in addressing some of the nation’s most pressing issues. Markle challenges itself and diverse partners to deploy their varied expertise to identify solutions and achieve systemic change. Today as advanced technology and automation change the very nature of work, Markle’s priority is advancing solutions towards a skills-based labor market that will enable Americans to transition to the opportunities of the digital economy. Markle’s workforce initiatives include Skillful and the Rework America Task Force. They follow Markle’s success in creating the policy and technology architecture that has enabled improvements in healthcare, national security, and access to the Internet. For more information, visit, follow @MarkleFdn and @ReworkAmerica onTwitter, and read our book, America’s Moment.

About Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado
John Hickenlooper is the 42nd governor of Colorado. Since taking office in 2011, the Governor and his team have endeavored to make Colorado the most pro-business state, with the highest environmental and ethical standards. Learn more at

About Skillful
Skillful, a non-profit initiative of the Markle Foundation with many partners, is working to achieve a skills-based labor market to help millions of Americans overcome barriers to obtaining better-paying jobs in today’s digital economy. Skillful helps employers achieve the workforce they need by providing data, tools, and resources that enable the adoption of skills-based hiring and training practices. Coaches and digital services enable job seekers to learn what skills are in demand and access training at any stage of their career. At the same time, Skillful aligns employers and educators so that their training programs teach the skills required to succeed in today’s economy.


Colorado—Gov. John Hickenlooper (D)“Governors are terrific tradesman. We often see good ideas in one state and steal them for our own, only for those ideas to return to the originating state improved,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “The Skillful State Playbook is just the tool states need to guide them in tapping the benefits of Skillful programs and partnerships.”

Representative Workplace Initiative: Colorado Invests in Coaches
The Governor’s Coaching Corps, a partnership of Skillful and the State of Colorado, is an intensive, 8-month program that recognizes the vital role career coaches play bridging the gap between jobseekers and employers, supporting economic growth across the state, and guiding professional advancement for thousands of Coloradans. The Coaching Corps gives coaches the tools and training they need to better serve jobseekers in our rapidly changing labor market and to invest in their own personal and professional development.

For additional information: Jacque Montgomery,, Direct: 303.866.4361

Arkansas—Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)
“Skillful is an innovative program, and I am pleased that Arkansas is one of the founding members of the Skillful State Network. In Arkansas, we offer training that complements the skills and interests of Arkansans at all educational levels. Skillful will open even more opportunities for Arkansans to add to their skill set and further strengthen our workforce,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson.

For additional information: Chelsea O’Kelley,, Direct: 501.682.3642

Delaware—Gov. John Carney (D)
“From restructuring the way our state does economic development, to strengthening career pathways, to investing in an innovation economy, workforce development has been a top priority of my administration. We look forward to sharing best practices and learning from other states about how we can improve the way we link Delawareans to good paying jobs and sustainable, fulfilling careers,” said Governor John Carney.

Representative Workplace Initiative:
Today, nearly 9,000 students are enrolled in our statewide Delaware Pathways initiative, which began in 2014 with just 27 students. Delaware understands the need to invest in the workforce of tomorrow, and the Pathways program is doing just that.

For additional information: Jon Starkey,, Direct: 302.256.8364

Illinois—Gov. Bruce Rauner (R)
“As the State Workforce Innovation Board Co-Chair and business leader, I am excited that Governor Rauner has agreed to have Illinois be one of the founding states for the Skillful State Network. This opportunity will help Illinois learn and share best practice models with other states and be an incubator for new and innovative ideas to meet the needs of our workforce and employers in the future,” says John Rico, Illinois Workforce Innovation Board Co-Chair.

Representative Workplace Initiative:
The Illinois Talent Pipeline Program funds employer-led workforce strategies to train workers who can contribute to companies’ growth and success. Projects funded under this program are intended to develop sustainable work-based learning programs to help Illinois companies retain and train current and new workers.
Grantees must address one or more of the following Illinois Talent Pipeline activities to be considered for funding:

  • Projects that connect talent strategies with business needs
  • Layoff aversion projects that support businesses and workers that are at risk of company closures or layoffs
  • Projects that expand work-based learning opportunities including apprenticeships for targeted populations

For additional information: Jacquelyn Reinke,, Direct: 312.485.8227

Indiana—Gov. Eric Holcomb (R)
“Our focus in Indiana is preparing our workforce for jobs available now and in the years to come,” Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb said. “Sharing workforce practices among Skillful State Network members and encouraging multiple pathways to success in a changing economy will strengthen our talent pool, meet employer demand and put hardworking Hoosiers in high-need, high-wage careers of the future.”

Representative Workplace Initiative: Indiana Supports Training
Next Level Jobs is a key pillar of Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Indiana agenda. Under his leadership with support from the General Assembly, Indiana is skilling up its workforce of today and tomorrow focusing on the high-wage, high-demand industries driving Indiana’s 21st Century economy. The Next Level Jobs initiative brings employers, workforce, K-12 and higher education leaders, and Hoosiers together by offering two different training grants targeting high-demand industries including advanced manufacturing, agriculture, building and construction, health and life sciences, IT and business services, and transportation and logistics. Together, these programs provide more than $20 million over the next two years for Hoosiers and employers for training and certifications that help Indiana meet current workforce demand.

For additional information: Bob Birge,, Direct: 317.232.7472

Massachusetts—Gov. Charlie Baker (R)
“Massachusetts has had a lot of success in aligning our Education, Economic, and Workforce secretariats to collectively tackle issues of employment readiness in the Commonwealth” said Governor Charlie Baker. “By working with other states to share data and best practices, we will help ensure all our citizens have the resources and training they need to access high demand jobs in an increasingly changing economy.”

Representative Workplace Initiative: Learn to Earn
Learn to Earn is an initiative designed to connect unemployed or underemployed individuals receiving public assistance to high demand career pathways that support increased income and economic stability. The program was designed by Governor Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet, which includes the secretariats of Education, Labor and Workforce Development, and Housing and Economic Development. This cross-secretariat initiative leverages a regional industry sector partnership model, as well as cohort-based coaching, family-focused supports, and benefits counseling.

For additional information: Brendan Moss,

Montana—Gov. Steve Bullock (D)
“Access to a talented and trained workforce is key for businesses in our state to thrive and right now we know that this is a challenge. I look forward to working with Skillful and the Network to share strategies and develop innovative pathways for workers to gain skills and ultimately connect employers with the workforce they need,”said Governor Steve Bullock

Representative Workplace Initiative:
Governor Bullock has prioritized expansion of registered apprenticeships to meet workforce demands in high-growth, high-wage occupations including health care, manufacturing, IT, financial services, and construction. Apprenticeships like the injection molding training program at West Paw Design in Bozeman, Montana’s first apprenticeship in the manufacturing industry, are customized to the employer’s needs and ensure that employees can skill-up quickly to meet the demands of a growing business. Since 2013, registered apprenticeships have increased by almost 30% with training programs available in over 70 occupations.

For additional information: Marissa Perry,, Direct: 406.444.4514

New Jersey—Gov. Phil Murphy (D)
“A stronger and fairer state begins with an economy that works for everyone,” Governor Murphy said. “Getting the economy right and creating jobs is a critical step toward securing a strong future for New Jersey. Our state is committed to providing all of our residents with the tools they need to get jobs, support their families, and reach their potential. We are excited to join with Skillful and bring valuable tools to job seekers in New Jersey.”

Representative Workplace Initiative: New Start Career Network
Governor Murphy is committed to tackling New Jersey’s nation-leading long-term unemployment rate and connecting every state resident to meaningful work. The Governor and First Lady helped found the New Start Career Network at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, which since 2015 has leveraged career coaching provided by over 250 trained volunteers, robust technology tools, community partnerships, and employer engagement to assist its more than 3,300 long-term unemployed members. The Governor plans to extend this model statewide to strengthen New Jersey’s workforce development system.

For additional information: Alyana Alfaro,, Direct: 609.292.9763

North Carolina—Gov. Roy Cooper (D)
“I want North Carolinians to be better educated, healthier, and have more money in their pockets so that they can live more abundant, purposeful lives,” said Governor Cooper. “The linchpin to achieving that goal is to help people get good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families. Every state is facing economic challenges and adapting their workforce systems to overcome those challenges. We are thrilled to join the Skillful Network to learn from other states innovating in workforce development and to share our challenges and successes with them as well.”

Representative Workplace Initiative:
North Carolina is developing NCWorks Certified Career Pathways in every region of the state. With 27 so far and more in development, these employer-led pathways are a collaboration between the K-12 system, community colleges and local workforce teams to help North Carolinians get good-paying jobs in fields like healthcare, advanced manufacturing and IT.

For additional information: Sadie Weiner,, Direct: 919.814.2122

North Dakota—Gov. Doug Burgum (R)
“For North Dakota to reach its fullest potential, we need the skilled workforce to match a job market being disrupted by rapid technological change. Joining the Skillful State Network as a founding member presents an exciting opportunity to work with key stakeholders and learn best practices that will bolster our efforts to fill North Dakota’s 13,000 job openings by harnessing the very technology transforming our economy,” said Governor Doug Burgum.

Representative Workplace Initiative:
Recognizing that work-based learning opportunities are instrumental to the development of 21st century workforce skills, Operation Intern is designed to expand the number of internship, work experience and apprenticeship positions with North Dakota employers in selected industries: energy, advanced manufacturing, value-added agriculture, tourism and technology-based businesses, with special emphasis on supporting start-ups in North Dakota. Employers are incented to create internship programs through matching funds.

For additional information: Mike Nowatzki,, Direct: 701.328.2424

Ohio—Gov. John Kasich (R)
“As the global economy transforms, so must our workforce. That requires leveraging all of our capabilities to better coordinate our industries and education as one. Over the past several years, Ohio has taken important steps to better prepare our workers, but there is still much work to be done. As a member of this network, it’s my hope that member states can leverage each and every lesson learned to ensure our nation’s workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future,” said Governor John Kasich.

Representative Workplace Initiative: Ohio Recognizes Job-Ready Students
Ohio high school students now can earn recognition by showing they are prepared for work. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal is a formal designation students can earn on their high school diplomas and transcripts indicating they have the personal strengths, strong work ethic and professional experience that businesses need. To earn the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, motivated high school students must demonstrate certain professional skills required for success in the workplace and work with at least three experienced and trusted mentors who validate the demonstration of these skills in school, work or the community. Students who earn the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal are prepared to contribute value to the workplace and community.

For additional information: Jon Keeling,, Direct: 614-644-0906

Oklahoma—Gov. Mary Fallin (R)
“Internships and apprenticeships provide Oklahomans with a clear pathway to wealth-generating careers,” said Governor Mary Fallin. “This goal is part of my Oklahoma Works initiative, which aligns education with the critical needs of the workforce. Work-based learning allows job seekers to gain training and on-the-job experience.”

Representative Workplace Initiative: Oklahoma Works
In November 2017, Governor Mary Fallin established a statewide work-based learning goal to increase quality internships and apprenticeships to 20,000 by 2020. As part of this work, the first youth apprenticeship in the state was established in partnership with Dell. The program allows high school seniors to work as help-desk technicians while finishing their high school careers at a local 2-year institution that provides the necessary relevant technical instruction. Oklahoma is also working to pass legislation in 2018 to establish the first registered internship program in the country.

For additional information: Michael McNutt,, Direct: 405.522.8878

Rhode Island—Gov. Gina Raimondo (D)
“Rhode Island’s workforce development strategy is showing clear signs of success, but there’s more work to be done. We’re excited to partner with Skillful to refine our understanding of what’s working well here at home, and what’s working well in other states,” said Governor Gina Raimondo.

Representative Workplace Initiative: Building a Pathway to Real Jobs in Rhode Island
Governor Raimondo’s Real Jobs Rhode Island initiative aims to give Rhode Islanders the tools they need to succeed in the modern economy, while connecting employers in growing sectors of the state’s economy to the newly-trained employees they need to expand and thrive. A significant departure from the “train and pray” paradigm of the past, Real Jobs RI has served more than 2,100 Rhode Island workers – either training and placing unemployed Rhode Islanders or upskilling incumbent workers to give them a shot at a better job. At the same time, more than 300 Rhode Island employers – from advanced manufacturing to commercial fishing to design – have participated in Real Jobs partnerships, allowing them to customize training curricula to the specific needs of their company or industry.

For additional information: Mike Raia,, Direct: 401.222.8134

South Dakota—Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R)
“Workforce development is not a new challenge for South Dakota, and it’s an issue that every state faces. In recent years, we have been identifying the components of an effective workforce system and developing strategies to meet employer needs,” said Governor Dennis Daugaard. “I’m excited about the opportunity to join the Skillful State Network so we can learn from each other and share ideas to promote effective strategies.”

Representative Workplace Initiative: Build Dakota Scholarship Program
In 2014, Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced a $50 million partnership with the state of South Dakota and South Dakota businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to establish the Build Dakota scholarship program, which offers full scholarships for students entering high-need workforce programs at in-state technical institutes. The scholarship program also provides an opportunity for communities, economic development organizations, businesses and individuals from across the state to come together to provide meaningful solutions.

The $50 million provides 300 full scholarships annually and is available to in-state and out-of-state students. Those who are awarded with the scholarship commit to stay in South Dakota to work in their field of study for three years. A board appointed by the Governor determines high-need workforce areas and administers the scholarship.

For additional information: Tony Venhuizen,, Direct: 605.773.5999

Tennessee—Gov. Bill Haslam (R)
“In Tennessee, we believe the best workforce development plan is an education plan. We are investing in our workforce through initiatives like Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, so all Tennesseans have the opportunity to attend college free of tuition or fees,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. “Through the Skillful State Network, we will share our successes and challenges with other states as we continue to increase the number of high-skilled Tennesseans and create a workforce prepared to meet the needs of current and future employers.”

Representative Workplace Initiative:
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in 2013 launched the Drive to 55, a workforce development initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025 – the year in which at least half the jobs in state will require a degree or certificate. To help meet that goal and create pathways to education, Haslam created Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect providing all Tennesseans access to community or technical college free of tuition and fees. Today, more Tennesseans are attending college than ever before, and if the state sustains its current momentum, it is on pace to meet the Drive to 55 goal two years early.

For additional information: Jennifer Donnals,, Direct: 615.253.1390

Utah—Gov. Gary Herbert (R)
“Developing Utah’s workforce is crucial to ensuring future success in our quickly growing state. Utah is committed to develop and enhance training programs to meet industry needs,” said Gov. Gary R. Herbert. “The Skillful State Network aligns with existing state initiatives to ensure job seekers receive the skills they need to contribute to a healthy economy.”

Representative Workplace Initiative:
Since taking office in 2009 Gov. Herbert has led the state of Utah to unprecedented economic success. Utah’s economy is one of the strongest in the nation and Forbes magazine has named Utah the best state for business six out of the last seven years. Gov. Herbert’s administration is proactive in its approach to creating jobs and strengthening the economy. In his 2017 State of the State address he announced Talent Ready Utah, an initiative designed to effectively align education with pressing workforce needs to create and fill 40,000 new high-skill, high-paying jobs in Utah by 2020.

Talent Ready Utah is a collaborative effort to improve both Utah’s education system and workforce. By effectively increasing industry and education partnerships, Talent Ready Utah will fill critical workforce needs while ensuring the state’s continued economic success for generations to come.

For additional information: Aimee Edwards,, Direct: 801.755.3085

Vermont—Gov. Phil Scott (R)
“We know that the public investments we value, and the very future of Vermont’s economy, rely on growing our labor force and building a workforce with the skills and expertise for today’s jobs. I’m happy to work with this bipartisan group of governors, committed to sharing ideas and working together towards solutions that help create opportunities for Vermonters and Vermont’s businesses,” said Governor Phil Scott.

Representative Workplace Initiative: Vermont Builds Strategy to Strengthen Workforce
Governor Phil Scott appointed a Workforce Development Team, charged with creating an interagency workforce development plan to leverage the full assets of state government to build strategies for addressing Vermont’s labor force crisis, and advancing workforce development initiatives. This plan is a cornerstone of Governor Scott’s agenda.

For additional information: Rebecca Kelley, Direct: 802.828.6403

Virginia—Gov. Ralph Northam (D)
“Virginia recognizes that our residents are the driving force behind our growing economy. With FastForward, a first-of-its-kind pay-for-performance training initiative, we are investing in our people, measuring outcomes, and rewarding programs that get results,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “We look forward to sharing our experience with the Skillful State Network and learning what efforts have been successful in other states.”

Representative Workplace Initiative:
FastForward is a short-term workforce credential program to train Virginians for top, in-demand jobs across the Commonwealth. Most programs take between six and 12 weeks and are built so students can get their education while they work. Participants who complete their studies and receive credentials are only responsible for a third of program costs.

For additional information: Ofirah Yheskel,, Direct: 804.225.4262

Washington—Gov. Jay Inslee (D)
“A four-year degree isn’t the only path to a fulfilling career,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Business leaders have told us they are looking for talent in everything from information technology to health care. We must connect students to great employers and high-quality job training.”

Representative Workplace Initiative:
Career Connect Washington – This new initiative will create career connections in Washington State through job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships for 29,000 students in 11 communities through $6.4 million in grant funding and innovative partnerships. These opportunities include STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning experiences, job shadows at local employers, career planning, and over 4,800 new internships, pre-apprenticeships, and registered apprenticeships.

For additional information: Tara Lee,, Direct: 360.902.0632

Wisconsin—Gov. Scott Walker (R)“We need to provide Wisconsinites with the tools to succeed in both today’s and tomorrow’s economy which means developing a highly skilled workforce. Through the Skillful State Network we are joining with other Governors and other states who, like us, are thinking about our states’ future in the global economy. Here in Wisconsin, we have created the Wisconsin Career Creator, a $20 million initiative aimed at improving educational and training opportunities, and we invested in Wisconsin Fast Forward, a grant program that is working to enhance the skills of thousands of Wisconsin workers to help hundreds of Wisconsin businesses. We’re also investing in dual-enrollment, expanding youth apprenticeships, funding for high technology workshops called Fab labs, investing in scholarships for employees learning new skills and earning credentials, and job search and training resources,”said Governor Scott Walker.

Representative Workplace Initiative:
Wisconsin Fast Forward: a grant program to cultivate private sector job creation by helping businesses train highly skilled workers to fill openings. As of July 2017, over $21 million from the grant program had been contracted out to help train up to 19,472 workers at hundreds of Wisconsin businesses.

For additional information: Amy Hasenberg,, Direct: 608.266.2839