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From Site Selection magazine, January 2020

The 2020 Regional Workforce Development Rankings


We may one year choose to rank states’ primary workforce development programs, but not this year. That would take a panel of objective experts gauging outcomes based on copious input from program clients and many other sources. Perhaps one year.

Instead, this exercise looks in general terms at states’ workforce development climates, if you will, much like the state business climate rankings we publish each November. It’s an admittedly blunt instrument, but then it isn’t promising something it can’t deliver. These rankings take a regional look at states’ commitment to workforce development relative to other states in the same region based on five national and objective measures. It may well be that a lower-ranking state in a region has a far superior state program than the others. But again, we are not evaluating those programs here.

The ranking components are: (1) CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business 2019, Workforce and Education sub-ranking; (2) Forbes’ most recent Best States for Business Labor Supply sub-ranking; (3) U.S. News’ Best States for Education rankings; (4) ACT National Career Readiness Certificates rankings; and (5) the workforce preparation and development component of the State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).

What do the rankings mean in practical terms? A high-ranking state probably has a deeper labor pool, more certified applicants for job openings and a legislature committed to funding workforce programs. You’ll still want to get into the weeds of those programs to see if they are a good fit for your labor needs. And you’ll want that input from state program customers and graduates — the negative and the positive. These rankings don’t remove the need for due diligence, but they can help you get started.

Northeast 2019 2018
Massachusetts 1 1
New York 2 3
Pennsylvania 3 4
New Hampshire 4 2
New Jersey 5 6
Vermont 6 5
Connecticut 7 6
Maine 8 9
Rhode Island 9 8
East North Central 2019 2018
Indiana 1 2
Ohio 2 4
Michigan 3 1
Wisconsin 4 2
Illinois 5 5
South Atlantic 2019 2018
Georgia 1 2
North Carolina 2 3
Florida 3 4
Virginia 4 1
South Carolina 5 6
Maryland 6 5
Delaware 7 7
West Virginia 8 8
South Central 2019 2018
Texas 1 3
Tennessee 2 1
Alabama 3 3
Arkansas 4 6
Oklahoma 5 2
Kentucky 6 3
Louisiana 7 7
Mississippi 8 8
West North Central 2019 2018
Minnesota 1 2
Iowa 2 1
Nebraska 3 3
Missouri 4 6
South Dakota 5 4
Kansas 6 7
North Dakota 7 5
Mountain 2019 2018
Utah 1 2
Colorado 2 1
Idaho 3 3
Arizona 4 4
Wyoming 5 5
Montana 6 8
Nevada 7 5
New Mexico 8 7

Mark Arend
Editor Emmeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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