Workforce and Economic Development Peer Learning Network

Many legacy manufacturing firms, concentrated in the Northeast-Midwest region, continue to feel the effects of long-term erosion in the U.S. industrial base, the Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks, and recent sequestration and budget cuts. But there is cause for optimism: escalating reshoring, increases in employment since 2010, and projected job availability as an aging workforce retires; some even believe that a U.S. manufacturing “renaissance” is possible. Moreover, the July 2014 signing of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and a White House review of federal employment and training programs demonstrate increased federal attention to employment, generally, and workforce development, specifically.

Yet, even with the current economic upswing, economic disruption and dislocations continue. Many communities and states are still hurting, their businesses—especially manufacturing firms and their supply chains—are struggling to stay competitive in the face of ongoing global economic restructuring, and numerous workers remain unemployed or underemployed.

In light of these economic realities, workforce projections, and recent policy developments, the Institute is working to identify critical policy needs and support solutions to shared problems. The Institute’s work in this area is rooted in long-standing policy expertise in the areas of manufacturing revitalization, dislocated workers, livable communities, and economic development. The Institute co-coordinates a peer-learning network made up of representatives from business, government, labor, non-profit organizations, and academia. The network is focused on the alignment of workforce and economic development, as well as innovative approaches to retaining and creating jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector.

Current Activities:

Recent Activities

  • Co-coordinated regular monthly calls since 2012, allowing participants to share best practices and learn about relevant federal news, funding, and legislation.
  • Hosted a Capitol Hill briefing (February 2015) on proven, cost-effective uses of federal resources and assistance for workforce and economic development at every stage of the business life cycle – startup, expansion, maintenance, and decline.
  • Tracked federal funding and legislation of importance to the region’s manufacturing sector, including workforce legislation and manufacturing initiatives such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms program, and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

Upcoming Activities

  • Continued tracking of federal funding and legislation of importance to the manufacturing sector, including annual analysis of the President’s Budget in early 2016.
  • Information sharing on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act implementation.

Future Activities under Exploration

  • Increased engagement with the Congressional Revitalizing Older Cities Task Force.
  • Workforce needs and challenges surrounding aging infrastructure, especially water and sewer system operations and maintenance.

Accomplishments and Impacts:

The following accomplishments are representative of the Institute’s work to identify critical policy needs and support solutions to shared problems:

  • Increased participation in, and improved the focus of, regular peer learning network calls, which range from opportunities to learn from exemplary practices at the state and local level to collaborating on public comments on federal regulations.
  • Engaged with federal agencies and Congressional staff during a briefing for which the NEMW Congressional Co-Chairs served as honorary cosponsors. Attendees learned about proven, cost-effective uses of federal resources and assistance, including the coordination of state workforce and economic development agencies in Massachusetts, sector partnerships throughout the country, and layoff aversion in Pennsylvania. Attendees also learned about workforce and economic development efforts at the Department of Labor and the Economic Development Administration.


  • Federal Support for Effective Practices at Every Stage of the Business Life Cycle (2015, briefing slides).

Partners in Our Work:

National Call to Action