The Real-Life Impact of Aligning Economic Development With Workforce Development

January 30, 2023 Rachel Selsky, AICP

Youth workforce development is the futureEconomic development efforts that fail to consider workforce development are like a road trip without a driver — you won’t get very far.

Workforce development’s alignment with economic development has shifted significantly in recent years, and for good reason. Raising awareness at the local level of job opportunities and establishing basic skills at an early age will help meet the economic needs of your region while also allowing residents to benefit from those efforts. It is an absolute win-win.

To achieve this, states and communities around the country have been creating unique workforce development programs geared toward youth that complement local economic development efforts. Here are some examples of unique workforce development programs that help advance economic development efforts.


The offshore wind energy industry is a growing sector for Rhode Island with unique workforce challenges. As part of the WindWinRI program, several different organizations in southern Rhode Island collaborated to create the REcharge Academy, designed specifically to help meet the offshore wind energy industry’s workforce demands. The Academy provides a combination of lectures, tours, and hands-on experiences to the state’s K-12 students, including a field trip to the Block Island wind farm on the Rhode Island Fast Ferry.

The WindWinRI website also provides resources on potential jobs within the industry, which is a great way to raise awareness and expand interest in various careers.

Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Pathways in Technology Early College High School

Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) is an early college school in upstate New York that provides high school students with a pathway to work toward a two-year degree from Fulton-Montgomery Community College or SUNY Cobleskill at no additional cost.

Over the last eight years of operation, PTECH has been able to expand its program to serve 60 students per year throughout the region to help address career readiness and establish clear career pathways.

The program assists students who otherwise might not have been exposed to these opportunities for advancement. Its participating degree programs align with many of the region’s target industries, including:

  • Agricultural Business
  • Agricultural Science
  • Agricultural Engineering Technology: Power Machinery
  • Animal Industry
  • Biological Technology
  • Environmental Studies
  • Fisheries and Wildlife Technologies
  • Sustainable Crop Production
  • Culinary Arts

Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City

The Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City, NJ, is working with Apple to support local youth in exploring science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) related occupations through its Design Lab and STEAM Lab. This program provides local students with exposure to the latest in coding and app development in preparation for future learning and career opportunities.

Practical tips for economic developers looking to build youth-focused workforce development programs:

  • Get to them where they are: Build career preparation training and occupation awareness into the existing curriculum to limit the need for additional time and resources.
  • Connect with educators: Find ways to engage educators, coaches, administrators, and mentors to raise their awareness of career opportunities so they can pass it on to the young people in their lives.
  • Think outside the classroom: Create experiences that showcase the unique opportunities that exist at regional employers.
  • Talk to parents: Engage with the parents and guardians in the community to create advocates for different occupations and a better understanding of local career pathways and opportunities.
  • Speak their language: Design messaging and use channels that will resonate with young people and their goals for the future.

STEAM Night robot course and flyer

I recently took my second grader to STEAM night at our local high school where we could do different craft projects. This was a great chance to learn about the local high school robotics team, see the robotics course sponsored by Raytheon, and talk with my daughter about different opportunities available to her. She had a blast and can’t wait to go to the next one.

Do you need assistance creating an economic development plan or strategy that addresses workforce development? Camoin Associates can help. Learn more about our consulting services.

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