Using Government and Other Resources for Employment and Training Programs

September 27, 2018

Scope—This toolkit provides an overview of the array of employment and training programs offered in the United States. Although it examines mostly federal, state and local government-funded options, it also examines some industry-funded programs. With the cost of education continuing to increase, more organizations—especially smaller ones—will need to find ways to access affordable employment and training programs to expand their job applicant pools and to upskill their existing workforces. This toolkit aims to help organizations get started by outlining some of the main resources offered today.


This toolkit discusses the various options for organizations that want to implement employment and training programs supported by the government—and, to some extent, by industry. Topics covered include reasons to look for employment and training programs, current trends in the types of programs being offered, how organizations can align these programs with their organization's own policies and practices, and potential challenges for HR professionals, including complying with federal and state legal parameters.

It also reviews how job seekers, employees and employers interact with and benefit from government- or industry-funded employment and training programs. It will describe HR's role in their strategic use as a business resource and the more basic administrative side of accessing these programs, including how to communicate to employees about available options. See SHRM's Workforce Readiness Resources.


The need for a skilled workforce

According to a 2016 SHRM report, The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages, more than half of HR professionals reported some level of basic skills/knowledge deficits among job applicants, and 84 percent reported applied skills shortages in job applicants in the last year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Outlook: 2012-2022 reports that "the U.S. economy is projected to grow to 161 million, or 10.8 percent, over the 2012-2022 decade and add 15.6 million jobs to the 2012 employment level of 145.4 million. Some of the fastest projected growth will occur in the healthcare, healthcare support, construction, and personal care fields. Together, these four occupational groups are expected to account for more than 5.3 million new jobs by 2022, about one-third of the total employment growth."

There are expected to be challenges across industries related to the replacement of older workers who leave the workforce. Key factors that could influence how difficult replacing Baby Boomers will be are the amount of education and training required for vacant jobs, outsourcing trends and the move to automate some jobs currently performed by workers. Many organizations are already actively developing their next generation of leaders to prepare for this shift.

BLS reports that "Employment is projected to increase by 11.5 million over the 2016-26 decade, an increase from 156.1 million to 167.6 million. This growth—0.7 percent annually—is faster than the 0.5 percent rate of growth during the 2006-16 decade, a period heavily affected by the 2007-09 recession. Health care industries and their associated occupations are expected to account for a large share of new jobs projected through 2026, as the aging population continues to drive demand for health care services. The labor force will continue to grow slowly and to become older and more diverse. The aging population is projected to result in a decline in the overall labor force participation rate over the 2016 to 2026 decade. See Employment Projections 2016-26.

An overall decline in the workforce readiness of new entrants to the labor market

HR professionals report concerns with how well-prepared new entrants to the labor market will be over the coming years. SHRM research conducted in partnership with the nonprofit organization Achieve found that expectations for education and certifications were on the rise across industries and for all job types. This finding means that not only will the next generations of workers need to meet the education levels of the exiting Baby Boomers, but they will have to surpass them in many jobs.

For many of today's newest entrants into the labor market, securing an education is an increasing challenge. Some entrants must contend with a lack of college education or career readiness coming out of high school (or a lack of a high school degree altogether), or they have been affected by the exponentially rising cost of college. In 2012, the Pew Research Center asked young people how prepared they were to make progress in their careers. The survey found that the majority of young people (between the ages of 18 and 34) felt they did not have the education and training needed to get ahead. Less than half (46 percent) of those who were employed said they had the education and training necessary to get ahead in their jobs or careers, and only 27 percent of those not working said they were adequately prepared for the kind of job they wanted.

If these trends continue, organizations will face a skills and talent crisis; finding the right people to fill jobs will be more difficult. To avoid this scenario, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL's) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has invested in various initiatives. One such initiative is the YouthBuild grants program to help young people develop job skills (ETA invested $75 million). The ETA has also formed public-private partnerships to help revitalize U.S. manufacturing and to encourage companies to invest in the U.S. through a variety of projects, including initiatives that train workers with skills that organizations need to capitalize on business opportunities.

Business Case

With training and development benefits in decline, many organizations are missing out on a vital tool for retention and leadership development. Organizations that can find ways to continue to support their employees' skill development and employability will benefit through higher-skilled employees, a better-skilled local talent pool, and a more motivated and engaged workforce. For example, educational assistance programs can also promote employee engagement, which can turn a good employee into an exceptional employee. 

Employers often find that even well-educated applicants or employees have critical skills gaps that are due, in part, to the fast-paced global economy and the failure of some employers to recognize the importance of continual education and skills development. 

Aside from recruiting new employees, an organization can enhance its competitive abilities by educating and training its existing workforce. 

Skills development partnerships and programs can also facilitate an organization's branding efforts.


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HR's Role

HR professionals' roles in designing and managing their organizations' employee development strategies are multifaceted. The most basic role an HR professional plays is presenting the business case for investing in skills development. HR must design skills partnerships best suited for the organization with input from outside experts. Feedback from C-level executives must be incorporated to adjust the plan as needed. If skills development partnerships already exist, the HR professional should constantly assess their effectiveness and look for improvements. HR must make sure the program meets the organization's strategic objectives. See Getting Smart About Skills Transfer Could Solve the Skills Gap and HR Is Helping to Narrow the Workforce Skills Gap.

Training and Skills Development Resources

The demand for skills continues to rise. Many organizations and job seekers are turning to local, state and federal government programs for training and skills development. Many of these resources serve employers and job seekers simultaneously. Below are some of the main government-funded employment and training resources. HR professionals, recruiters and employers looking for job seekers with specific skills or wanting to develop new skills in their workforces may find these resources useful.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 22, 2014. The WIOA authorizes federal employment and training programs to help individuals acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for today's economy and to connect employers to the skilled workers they need. Four main programs are associated with the WIOA:

  • Adult, dislocated worker, and youth employment and training programs, administered by the DOL.
  • Adult education and literacy programs, administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • The Wagner-Peyser Employment Service program, administered by the DOL.
  • Rehabilitation Act programs that provide services to individuals with disabilities, administered by the Department of Education.

American Job Centers (formerly One-Stop Career Centers)

The DOL describes its One-Stop Career Centers, now called American Job Centers, which are coordinated by the ETA, as centers that are "designed to provide a full range of assistance to job seekers under one roof. The centers, established under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), offer training referrals, career counseling, job listings, and similar employment-related services. Customers can visit a center in person or connect to the center's information through PC or kiosk remote access."1

The DOL provides a searchable database of American Job Centers for each state and a list of state, regional and local center contacts.

The American Job Centers' business resources include:

  • Employee skill needs. Resources to help employers develop training strategies and to learn about effective assessment, job skill analysis, certifications and training resources.
  • Training options. Resources to find training options in local areas, including onsite customized training, community colleges and other training providers, certifications, professional associations and more.
  • Funding employee training. Information about several low-cost options for training employees using the employers' own internal resources.
  • Managing and retaining employees. Information about finding local resources for low-cost adult basic education and English-as-a-second-language training.

Workforce Investment Boards

Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) direct federal, state and local funding to workforce development programs. They also oversee the American Job Centers. A good place to find information about the closest workforce investment board is on the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) website. The NAWB represents approximately 600 WIBs and their 12,000 business members. These members "coordinate and leverage workforce strategies with education and economic development stakeholders within their local communities to ensure that state and local workforce development and job training programs meet the needs of employers."2 The NAWB works with federal policymakers to inform national strategy as it relates to WIBs and its partners.

Federally funded programs

Job Corps

As summarized on its website, "Job Corps is a no-cost education and vocational training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor that helps young people ages 16-24 improve the quality of their lives by empowering them to get great jobs and become independent. Job Corps' mission is to attract eligible young people, teach them the skills they need to become employable and independent and place them in meaningful jobs or further education."

Apprenticeship USA

The registered apprenticeship program is a national system of on-the-job training and involves a network of more than 150,000 employers in more than 1,000 occupations. The program has trained millions of apprentices over the past 75 years using an "earn and learn" model that combines work-based learning with classroom instruction.

Trade Adjustment Assistance

According to the DOL, "the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program is a federal program that provides a path for employment growth and opportunity through aid to U.S. workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade. The TAA program seeks to provide these trade-affected workers with opportunities to obtain the skills, resources, and support they need to become reemployed."


YouthBuild is a public/private partnership, but it is mainly funded by the DOL under the federal YouthBuild program, administered by the ETA. It is focused on low-income young people ages 16 to 24 and enables them to work half-time for 6 to 24 months while learning job skills through the construction of affordable housing in their communities and to work the other half of their time toward earning their GED or high school diploma.

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education 

Overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) administers and coordinates programs related to adult education and literacy, career and technical education, and community colleges. It offers several different types of educational grants.

Rehabilitation Services—Vocational Rehabilitation Grants to States

Under the purview of the U.S. Department of Education, this program "provides grants to states to support a wide range of services designed to help individuals with disabilities prepare for and engage in gainful employment consistent with their strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests and informed choice."

Programs for the long-term unemployed

Employment Service/Wagner-Peyser Funded Activities

The Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933 established a nationwide system of public employment offices known as the Employment Service. Wagner-Peyser was later amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, merging the Employment Service into the One-Stop Career Center delivery system. Wagner-Peyser funded activities are part of the American Job Centers, also known as One-Stop Career Center, delivery system.

WIA Adult Program

The WIA Adult Program provides quality employment and training services to help eligible individuals find and qualify for meaningful employment, and to help employers find skilled workers.

WIA Youth Activities

In addition to programs aimed at adults, the WIA also enacted a formula-funded youth program for eligible low-income youth. Youth ages 14 to 21 who face barriers to employment are eligible.

WIA Dislocated Workers

This program helps workers who have been laid off or who have been notified that they will be terminated or laid off.

Adult Education and Literacy Program

The programs under this Department of Education umbrella mainly support adult basic education, adult secondary education and English language acquisition, and they emphasize basic skills such as reading, writing, math, English language competency and problem-solving.

Programs for veterans

Disabled Veterans Outreach Program

Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists provide intensive services to meet the employment needs of veterans with disabilities and other eligible veterans, with an emphasis on serving those who are economically or educationally disadvantaged, including homeless veterans and veterans with barriers to employment.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment

The Veterans Administration has created a Veterans Employment Toolkit for employers that provides resources for employers, managers or supervisors, and human resource professionals, including information about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

America's Heroes at Work

This DOL website offers online training, webcasts, and presentations and resources for employers, including employment training information.

Finding Local Skills-Development Partners

Community colleges often welcome employers' calls for working together to create educational offerings that develop specific skill sets. Community colleges market themselves through the employability of their alumnae, and through their business networks and partnerships that help their students find work. They often work closely with local employers to meet their skill needs. It is always worth contacting a local community college when looking to meet skills shortages.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) represents nearly 1,200 two-year, associate degree-granting institutions and more than 13 million students. This can be a good place to start when looking for regional community colleges with which to partner.

Many employers also work with four-year colleges and universities. Contacting the leading universities in a particular field can often yield insight into potential training and skills development partnerships.

Industry Resources

Industries often take the lead in developing training and educational programs. Below are some industry training and development resources, often led by industry institutes and associations.


The Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI) provides relevant education and skills training for careers in advanced manufacturing through a partnership between industry and education and offers employer-specific customized training either onsite or at any MSI education partner location.

The Manufacturing Institute offers a Right Skills Now program. This is an acceleration of the National Association of Manufacturers' Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System, which includes nationally portable, industry-recognized certifications that are combined with for-credit education programs. It is also expanding the program to a group of sites around the country to help people transitioning out of the military gain the skills needed to enter the manufacturing industry. 

Service sector

Service-sector training initiatives are also a potential resource for training partnerships. Organizations such as the National Restaurant Association for those in the hospitality industry or CompTIA for IT professionals are examples of service-sector associations that have training initiatives. The National Healthcare Workers Association provides health care certification programs to health care professionals. Even if training partnerships are not offered, industry associations often are a good place to look for guidance on how to find training resources for industry-specific skills training and development.

Other agencies and organizations

Association for Training Development

National Association of Workforce Development Professionals

National Career Development Association

U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

Templates and Tools


Career Development Plan

Skills Analysis Form


Job Rotation Policy

Professional Development: Professional Training, Certification and Membership Policy

Professional Development: Training and Professional Development Reimbursement Policy



1U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). "Training: One-stop career centers." Retrieved from

2National Association of Workforce Boards. (n.d.). The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Retrieved from



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