Enterprising States Report: Top Performers in Talent Pipeline

June 22, 2012

This article is taken from Enterprising States, a study produced by the National Chamber Foundation. The study was released at the U.S. Chamber's annual Jobs Summit on June 13, 2012.

Talented human capital is one of the most critical factors related to the growth and success of companies and the prosperity of communities and states. Today, even as unemployment remains high, thousands of jobs throughout America cannot be filled because of a growing skills gap.

States play a major role in education and training and are on the frontlines of developing the workforce of today and tomorrow. The most successful state initiatives are those that develop and deliver training programs with input from business.

Almost every state is implementing programs to develop a labor force with more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) capabilities. An increasing number of states are paying attention to building a workforce to fill middle-skill jobs that require some training beyond high school, but not a four-year degree.

In order to gauge the overall environment for workforce activities in each state, the metrics cover some areas of higher education efficiency and attainment, the rigor of high school coursework, and the performance of the state job assistance system. Enterprising States provides a top-line review of the talent within each state based on general measures of secondary and higher education and workforce training systems.

For a more in-depth analysis of the performance of state public postsecondary education systems, the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce publishes Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Public Postsecondary EducationLeaders and Laggards provides more detailed state-by-state analysis of specific policy, practices and funding decisions directly related to postsecondary education.

Top talent pipeline states are determined using six measures:

  • Higher education degree production
  • State spending per degree awarded
  • Total student cost at a four-year research institution as a share of state disposable income
  • Share of residents age 25 to 44 with at least a two-year degree
  • Share of high school seniors taking Advanced Placement Courses
  • Attainment of goals for placing adults in open jobs by the state workforce development system


In 2012, the top-10 performing talent pipeline states are:

1. Florida – Florida ranks in the top eight in four of the six workforce and training measures. It ranks first in higher education efficiency and share of high school seniors taking advanced placement exams. The state ranks fourth for the efficiency of its workforce placement system and eighth in college affordability.

2. Massachusetts – Massachusetts ranks in the top seven in four workforce metrics. The state has the nation’s most educated young workforce, the third-highest output of college degrees, and the third-best ranking for its state workforce system efficiency.

3. New York – New York places in the top 20 in five of six workforce measures. The Empire State receives high marks for its college-educated population, advanced-student achievement, and its output of college degrees, ranking seventh or higher in all three metrics.

4. Utah – Utah holds a top-10 position or better in three rankings, including higher education spending per credential granted (3rd), undergrad tuition as a share of disposable income (6th), and degrees awarded per resident aged 18 to 24 (10th ). Utah's highly educated talent pool is a strong attraction for a growing number of technology companies and for the financial services sector.

5. South Dakota – South Dakota is a leader in investment in higher education efficiency, tuition affordability, and job placement performance. The South Dakota Workforce Initiatives (SD WINS) program is a 20-point plan launched to expand workforce training opportunities and attract skilled workers to the state, supporting business expansion.

6. Virginia – Ranked ninth for its high percentage of citizens with college degrees, the state is working to increase the number of high school graduates attending college with its Top Jobs Act. The program aims to help 100,000 more Virginians get college degrees over 15 years. Virginia ranks better than 22nd in four workforce metrics and no worse than 33rd in any measure.

7. Maryland – Maryland is home to the nation’s 10th most educated young workforce and it ranks second for sending high school students to advanced-placement exams. The state is positioned well to increase its already high level of educational attainment with the nation’s 11th most affordable higher education system.

8. Colorado – Colorado holds the number-eight rank in two key talent pipeline measures including the percent of 25- to 44-year-olds with an associates’ degree or higher and the share of high school seniors taking advanced-placement exams. The Colorado Blueprint aims to capitalize on this highly educated populace to achieve its aims of making Colorado an epicenter of innovation and technology in the 21st century.

9. North Dakota – North Dakota is highly rated for its tuition rates and percentage of individuals with an associate’s degree or higher, ranking second. The state produces the 17th-most college graduates for its size, and its job-placement system is the 16th most efficient. To support the overwhelming demand for oil and gas workers, the state has launched a Petroleum Safety and Technology Center to provide workforce training to meet the industry’s massive demand for workers.

10. Connecticut – A strong all-around workforce performer, Connecticut ranks in the top 24 in five and the top 19 in three workforce measures. The state has the seventh-most educated young workforce and the sixth-most efficient workforce placement system.