A Two-State Comparison of Workforce Attraction Efforts: How Colorado and Ohio Are Approaching The Worker Shortage Gap

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05 December 2016

By Aaron Brossoit

Workforce attraction has been a familiar topic for economic development professionals for at least the last decade. The United States Department of Labor and individual state economic development efforts have invested significant time and energy developing workforce development plans and strategic documents. All of these state plans are published and currently the strategic initiatives are being planned or executed. So with all this effort to develop workforce attraction, what are states doing? Golden Shovel Agency looked at the state plans of Ohio and Colorado to see what efforts are underway in the MidWest.

According to Ohio’s Integrated Workforce Plan (, over 400,000 jobs were lost between 2007 and 2011 and unemployment peaked at 10.6 percent in August of 2009. To reverse the labor trend, Ohio, under the direction of Governor John Kasich declared three workforce goals:

  • Goal 1 - Streamline workforce programs and services
  • Goal 2 - Improve system performance and access
  • Goal 3 - Invest resources to meet business and individual needs

In the 95 page document, strategic initiatives were detailed to reach these goals. The document is comprehensive and includes many of the current strategies states are discussing and implementing. Of particular note, the JobsOhio Network focused on a regional partnership approach that integrated teams and a holistic systems approach to attract businesses and recruit and train workers.

To improve the quality of the Ohio workforce, private-sector training and postsecondary technical programs were implemented in an effort to quickly relocate displaced workers. But the aging workforce continues to remove workers from the Ohio labor force at an astonishing rate, and Ohio needs to attract skilled and educated workers to fill the gap. To address the workforce attraction need, Ohio continues to tell their story to interested workers. The Ohio workforce plan calls for a streamlined and strategic vision to be articulated on the web site. The state portal is designed to advertise the benefits of working and living in Ohio while providing the resources and data to help interested workers with the decision to move to Ohio.

After reviewing the Ohio Integrated Workforce Plan, it appears Ohio is tapping into the value of regional coordination with private and public entities to best align goals and tell the story of Ohio to further attract businesses and workers alike. With a coordinated marketing plan and interesting narrative, Ohio is poised to gain the attention of job seekers.

For comparison, Golden Shovel Agency looked to the west at Colorado’s workforce attraction plan. The Colorado State Plan is found on the Colorado Workforce Development Council website ( and in 108,508 words details the workforce data and efforts in place to address the workforce shortage.

The Colorado plan is a comprehensive document and can be challenging to navigate; however, after careful reading one can find the state strategic vision and goals and begin to dissect the efforts.

The first stated goal, found on page 30, is “to create and sustain a business–led Colorado talent system that appropriately integrates the work of economic development, education, training and workforce development to meet the needs of businesses, students, and job–seekers.”

To accomplish this goal the Colorado workforce development system will leverage partnerships in the various business sectors and create or refine career pathways so more young workers can easily enter the workforce. Colorado, like many other states, recognizes young workers and/or displaced workers will need access to high-quality training and education to bridge the growing skills gap. As the United State’s economy continues to grow, businesses will need access to a sufficient labor pool that can help fuel growth. Colorado’s career pathway program addresses that need.

“Create and deliver a unified message for internal and external communication” is the fourth goal found in the strategic section of the document. The importance of this goal cannot be understated. States wishing to effectively improve their workforce attraction efforts need a powerful narrative and unified voice. The demand for educated and trained workers has created a highly competitive environment where workers can be selective in choosing jobs and communities. Colorado is on the right path with this goal and has established a “brand promise” which should help facilitate the messaging effort among stakeholders.

Another important section of the Colorado State Plan is the Performance and Assessment sections beginning on page 32. One valuable lesson in business is that only that which is measured gets improved. A state workforce strategy is no different. Colorado has pegged the accountability and improvement to the US Department of Labor and Education performance measures.

Both state plans from Ohio and Colorado have similarities to address the common workforce shortage gap. Ohio’s plan clearly favors a regional approach with consistent messaging and coordinated efforts among the private and public stakeholders. The Colorado state plan’s strength is the career pathways approach and attention to a unified brand. Both plans have accountability and measurement metrics so present efforts can be evaluated for future improvements. But the real test for each state is the communication strategy. Which state can most effectively tell their story and attract businesses and workers? It is a highly competitive environment with the prize of economic growth waiting to be claimed.

Ohio’s Integrated Workforce Plan in its entirety can be found on the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services web site. For further review, the plan can be downloaded at Colorado’s state plan can be downloaded from the Colorado Workforce Development web site (  

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