From Washington Guide 2021

Best State for Workers

Here’s How Washington Does It

Yakima Valley College  Photo courtesy of Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
by Ron Starner

When it comes to workforce development in the Evergreen State, consistent execution is the main reason why the state continues to churn out, year after year, one of the most highly educated, trained and productive workforces in the nation.

Oxfam recently ranked Washington as the No. 1 state to work during the pandemic, as the state secured 76.41 points out of a maximum possible score of 100. Washington ranked No. 1 for unemployment protection, No. 2 for overall worker protections, and No. 10 for health care.

This was followed up in March 2021 when U.S. News & World Report rated Washington the No. 1 Best State in the Country based on multiple factors, including third in infrastructure, fourth in education and economy, and sixth in fiscal stability.

How does Washington achieve this? A lot of the credit must go to state, regional and local programs that take innovative approaches toward solving employers’ biggest challenges. 
Public-private partnerships are the key to making this happen. In Washington, several top-tier programs are largely responsible for producing the type of elite talent coveted by employers.

Here is a brief overview of several of them:

Job Skills Program for Work Start fills training gaps with customized programs for employers that are expanding and investing capital into new operations in the state. When they need workers with specific skill sets, Work Start steps in to fill the gap.

Washington offers 11 Centers of Excellence that focus on specific key sectors that power the state economy. These centers are known for providing fast, flexible, quality education and training programs that meet the needs of growing businesses.

IMPACT Washington helps businesses become more competitive and profitable. Programs include lean manufacturing, marketing, customized job training, educational seminars and one-on-one consulting. IMPACT also assists manufacturers in niche recruiting of select talent.

Some 34 Community and Technical Colleges across the state also offer programs for employers and can be accessed as a one-stop resource for worker training.
WorkSource is a labor analysis tool offered by the Washington State Employment Security Department. Employers can use this tool to find in-depth labor data about the Washington job market.

Marie Bruin, Director of Workforce Education for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, says that “there is a significant need for all of our programs now. There is so much that our employers are going through with the pandemic and job loss and worker displacement.”

The good news, she says, is that the Job Skills Program received $10 million in additional funding for this fiscal year. “We had the first round which resulted in 32 new projects,” she notes. “The second round will be another 22 proposals. Businesses are using this at a very high level. Cabinet builders, electric plane manufacturers, dairies, food processors and aluminum processors are all using this tool as ready resource to train new employees.”
For more information on these and other workforce development programs, contact Danny Marshall, Program Administrator for Workforce Education, at 360-704-4332 or by email at  

Skagit Valley College
Photo courtesy of Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


As the No. 1 state in the nation, Washington’s economic strengths continue to earn top honors and attract new investments.

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