Workforce Development Programs Prove Popular and Successful Among Chambers

W.A.C.E. surveyed chamber executives in September to find out more about local chamber workforce development efforts in preparation for our upcoming Workforce Boot Camp.

Of chambers polled, 64% stated that they currently have a workforce development program. Among those that answered “yes,” 18% were from chambers with more than 1,000 members, 43% were from chambers with 501–999 members, 34% were from chambers with 251–500 members, and 5% were from chambers with fewer than 250 members.

The chambers that currently have a program were then asked to rate the success of their program. Of those responding, 65% rated their program as highly successful and only 3% rated their program as unsuccessful.

We then wanted to know who the current program aims to serve. According to the poll, 73% of current workforce development programs serve youth (K–12), while 41% focus on retraining existing area workers. Only 8% serve college students and young adults, followed by 6% of programs focused on trailing spouses and 6% serving military and veterans.

Chambers who answered that they did not have a workforce development program were then asked why they did not. An overwhelming majority (59%) answered that they do not have the staff to take on a workforce program and 27% responded that they do not have the funding.

Other reasons given for not having a program include: we already have a local organization handling workforce development (13%), it is not a priority for my members (8%) and we are in the process of developing a program (8%).

Many chambers who stated they were in the process of developing a program also added that since COVID-19 hit, development for the program has been put on hold.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have made the need for workforce development in our communities more apparent than ever,” said W.A.C.E. Vice President Jennifer Johnson. “Record numbers of employees find themselves unemployed while companies struggle to find qualified applicants for the positions they do have. Workforce development is a great way to make a direct impact on your community that will have lasting effects and show your value as a catalyst, convener and champion for your community.”

Funding a Program

If you are wondering how you might fund a workforce development program, good news, we asked that too!

Of the chambers who responded to the survey, 48% said their workforce development programs are funded from the chamber’s general fund while 31% reported that the funding comes from their 501(c)(3) foundation.

In addition, 30% of chambers have partnered with and receive funding for the program from educational institutions and school districts, with only 23% receiving government grants.

Other sources of funding include: sponsorships, employer funded and private grants.

Deep Dive Available

For more information about opportunities for engagement and the chamber’s role in workforce development, including how to launch a program in your community, attend our upcoming Workforce Boot Camp. This three-day virtual event will take place over three consecutive Wednesdays on October 21, October 28 and November 4.

Registration information is available at

View Data

To view all the data from this opinion poll, please visit:

If you have a topic you would like to have considered for a future opinion poll please email Jennifer Johnson, IOM at