Strengthen Education, Improve Schools, and Build the Workforce of the Future

We are at a crossroads in American history around the future of work. The pace of change is rapid, and mayors are examining the trends shaping the workforce of tomorrow, including artificial intelligence and automation, the changing models around freedom and flexibility in the workplace, the impact of the gig economy, and whether city residents will be able to work sustainably and earn a living wage or be left behind. The skill transitions are going to be quite substantial, and many will lack the skills necessary to thrive in a changing workplace. Mayors are facing up to the challenges and are examining ways to help workers and businesses manage their way and succeed throughout this transition.

Accordingly, mayors call on the President and Congress to:

Increase Funding for Workforce Innovation

Faced with unprecedented skills gaps, governments are pursuing alternative pathways to recruit and develop new talent – non-traditional apprenticeships, immersive internships, coding bootcamps, etc. These innovative efforts require mayoral leadership and a willingness to partner with a number of different stakeholders.

The Chicago Apprentice Network is one such best practice, with the tools needed to build successful, collaborative apprenticeship programs. Similarly, the Center for Workforce Innovation (CWI) is a partnership with the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Committee for Progress, Atlanta Technical College and sponsor companies, committed to supporting high demand career fields within the Skilled Trades (Carpentry, Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC, Welding), IT/Coding (IT Support, Networking, Cloud Technologies) and Aviation. Code Louisville is another success story – a strong public-private partnership that bolsters technological innovation in the region. To build on these and other local innovations, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) must be fully funded at authorized levels and reauthorization must further promote and support workforce innovation and employee freedom and flexibility in cities.

Improve Coordination and Access to Jobs and Job Training Opportunities

Mayors are leading the way with innovative solutions and initiatives to address the economic insecurity and community challenges associated with rapid changes to work and at work. Accordingly, the President and Congress are urged to:

  • Expand apprenticeship opportunities and on-ramps to serve adults in transition, in addition to young people entering the workforce.
  • Offer recognition and incentives for skills gains, including nationally-recognized occupation credentials and transferable, stackable competencies, so that human talent is rewarded.
  • Systematically authorize the delivery of skills, training, and learning with support of federal Pell Grants, Perkins funds and other resources by providers beyond the limited scope of accreditation by traditional institutions, including credentials, badges, certificates, and other non-degree validated indicators of aptitude, knowledge, talent and skills.
  • Substantially broaden the governance of accreditation to include mayors and other public representatives in addition to existing representation of postsecondary institutions, in order to assure that the public interest in quality, equity, innovation, and workforce development is served.
  • Build on prior reforms to provide better coordination and adopt frameworks that incentivize career pathways, dual enrollment approaches, and recognized postsecondary credentials and employment outcomes in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization.
  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to short-term training and credentials and strengthen connections to local and regional economies.
  • Promote better coordination between WIOA and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in reauthorization. Incompatible performance measures between WIOA and TANF impede cooperation and collaboration and should be streamlined.
  • Restore the long-term commitment to a strong summer jobs program by establishing separate ongoing funding for youth summer jobs programs enabling students to have work experience and on-the-job training.
  • Adopt immigration policies which help American companies attract and retain the best and brightest workers, provide green cards for advanced degree graduates of American universities, create a new green card category for entrepreneurs, and reform current H-1B visa programs.
  • Create new funding programs and grants for labor workforce upskilling and reskilling to deal with the effects of automation at the workplace.

Prepare the Future Workforce

Universal Pre-K Education

The track record is clear. High-quality preschool provides the foundation for success in school and helps mitigate educational gaps that exist between children from high- and low-income families before they enter kindergarten. America’s mayors have been strong advocates for high-quality early learning, and many of our cities have demonstrated that universal early learning has a proven, powerful impact for our children and profound impacts on later learning and success.

Accordingly, mayors call on the President and Congress to:

  • Enact federal legislation that provides access for all three- and four-year olds from families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line to a high-quality, full-day early childhood education.
  • Expand access to high-quality early childhood education for all of our nation’s children.
  • Expand access to subsidized child care for children ages 0-3 years old for low-income parents.
  • Improve the quality of all child care.
  • Expand enrollment in Early Head Start.

K-12 Education Excellence

The failure of many schools to properly prepare students for college, career and life leaves them unprepared to compete in the global economy. Together, we call on the President, Congress, state and local leaders to:

  • Reform K-12 education to recruit, retain, recognize and reward the most talented educators and ensure their efficacy.
  • Expand individualized, personalized learning, matching instructional tasks to skill levels, interests, and abilities.
  • Enhance parental choice and control among public schools to help overcome the lasting effects of decades of redlining and segregation.
  • Fuse academics with wraparound supports to address issues of poverty and meet the needs of the whole child to improve student achievement.
  • Reintroduce modern skills training and promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) along with a civics requirement.
  • Enhance physical education, health awareness and performing arts within the K-12 system.

Higher Education Access

Our college completion agenda must embrace every student in every community, and we must increase our efforts to open the door to higher education access to more Americans in undereducated, underserved communities. Therefore, we call on the President and Congress to:

  • Make two years of community college free for responsible students.
  • Increase college affordability by raising the maximum Pell Grant and assure its continued growth, restructure tuition and financial aid policies to meet the needs of low-income students, and implement incentives to improve outcomes and lower costs using advanced technology.
  • Expand and enhance community college infrastructure to reflect changes in technology, advanced manufacturing, and workplace needs.
  • Erase the limitations on federal student aid for incarcerated individuals and for students with prior drug-related offenses. We need every student educated, including those who have made mistakes early in life.
  • Establish an industry-led task force, co-chaired by top-level administration policymakers, to coordinate federal efforts and ensure the private sector is ready to support and leverage federal training and education investments.


Focused on: Infrastructure, Innovation, & Inclusion