4: Managing the Partnership

Why is Managing Stakeholders and Activities Important to Success?

Every Good Initiative Needs a "Manager"

Recall that the Job Description of Partnership Intermediary emphasizes an ability to coordinate partners, manage information, and facilitate the design and implementation of solutions to employers’ needs. Often the intermediary is also responsible for the fiscal management of the initiative. To effectively undertake these responsibilities, the intermediary must: 

  • Dedicate staff time to the partnership. Successful initiatives often set aside a half- or full-time position for the task of coordinating the partners and information.
  • Take care of logistics, including meeting times, agendas, space, minutes and follow-up.
  • Build an understanding of each partner - how they want to participate, and what they can offer to the initiative at each stage, including planning and implementation.
  • Facilitate the development of a plan. This can be developed in a variety of formats, such as an action plan or logic model or workplan or narrative strategic plan. At a minimum, the plan must address long term goals, short- and medium-term activities, available resources and support from partners, and timelines. This should be the first cut at your initiative's strategic plan, which should evolve with the partnership.
  • Identify, secure, and leverage funding. Part of coordinating the partnership includes securing on-going fiscal support. The task of identifying, securing, and leveraging fiscal resources will fall on the intermediary, but should also be part of an open discussion with public and private partners.

Funding the Partnership's Activities

Funding sources may change as the activities and scope of the partnership change, but identification of consistent fiscal support is recommended. Sector initiatives across the country have leveraged many different funding streams to support their work.

Federal Sources State Sources Private Sources

  Discretionary Funding
  Title I: Core and Intensive
  Title I: On-the-Job Training
  Title I: Training Funds
  Title II: Adult Education

Food Stamp Employment and Training Job Placement with Retention

Pell Grants

Federal Work Study

State Discretionary Education Funds

State Economic Development Resources

State General Revenue

Unemployment Insurance Surplus


Industry Contributions

Federal Sources

WIA Discretionary Funding: WIA can be used for a variety of activities. Governor's WIA discretionary funding often is used as seed funding for sector initiatives, research, partnership development and coordination, project management and administration and can support a variety of operational activities such as training and supportive services

WIA Title I: Core and Intensive Services: These funds are distributed by local workforce boards and can be used to serve WIA eligible populations. They support a variety of activities, including orientation, skills/interest assessments, supportive service needs, career counseling, job readiness classes, and case managements.

WIA Title I: On-the-Job Training: These funds are distributed and governed by local workforce investment boards. They support employer or training provider designed programs and can be used for wage subsidies. These funds may be used to support employers or groups of employers, who must provide a 50 percent match. Local workforce investment boards must approve the training programs.

WIA Title I: Training Funds: These funds are available for WIA eligible and registered participants. They can be used for training up to a limit set by the local workforce investment board. They support job training, tuition and other training programs approved by the local workforce investment boards.

WIA Title II: Adult Education: These funds can be utilized to provide skills training to low skilled adults that lack a high school diploma or GED. These are granted as contracts to education institutions and community based organizations.

Food Stamp Employment & Training Job Placement with Retention: These funds can be utilized to serve Food Stamp eligible populations. They can be used to support skill development and create career paths among other activities. These funds are usually administered by the State Departments of Human/Social Services.

Pell Grants: These grants may be used to provide for tuition, living expenses, materials, and other expenses for eligible low-income students.

Federal Work Study: These funds, administered by the U.S. Department of Education directly to accredited educational institutions, can be used to subsidize a student's wages. Campuses may target these resources to provide work subsidies for students in sector based training programs.

State Sources

State Discretionary Education Funds: Many states have utilized education funds to support sector strategies. In post secondary institutions, many states have utilized education funding to create new industry-aligned curricula, create short-term program models, and create customized training and other activities that reshape educational institutions to be more industry responsive.

State Economic Development Resources: Some states have developed training tax credits for groups of employers to train new entrant or incumbent workers that allow workers to enter or advance within an industry. Some states also have utilized state economic development resources to train workers for firms that relocate or expand in the state.

State General Revenue: General revenue can be used to support a wide range of activities. Many states have developed grant funds to provide start-up capital for sector initiatives, pay for training for new entry workers and incumbents, provide scholarships to participants, and conduct a number of research, analysis and evaluation activities.

Unemployment Insurance Surplus: Some states have utilized surpluses in unemployment insurance revenue to incumbent worker grant funds to provide skills training to allow workers to advance in the workplace.

Private Sources

Foundations: Foundation resources support a range of activities at various stages of a sector initiative. Usually foundation resources have been used as start-up capital to convene a sector initiative and develop partnerships. However, foundation resources also have been used to provide training, supportive services, and project management.

Industry Contributions: Employer partners provide financial and in-kind contributions to sector initiatives that support various aspects of sector initiatives, including paid release time, tuition reimbursement, materials, instructors, facilities, skills testing, and marketing/recruitment among others.


Extracted from: National Governors Association Issue Brief, Sector Strategies: Regional Solutions to Employers' and Workers' Needs, November 2006. Sources: “Building Bridges, Funding Stream Glossary” (2003) Chicago Jobs Council and Women Employed, Chicago IL. Bidot-Cruz, Alexandra (2003) “State-level Investments in Workforce Development” The National Network of Sector Partners, the National Economic Development and Law Center, Oakland CA

Direction, Connection, Momentum and Energy

Every Partnership Needs Direction and Connection

The heart of a good sector partnership is making sure the solutions are the right match for the identified workforce needs of the target industry. This implies a need by the Partnership Intermediary to facilitate the direction of the partnership without setting its course. The intermediary is responsible for mobilizing the partners and providing a forum for actions that connect to longer term goals. The employer members are responsible for charting the course of the initiative based on their shared needs.

What is the role of the public workforce system and other partners? They must participate, listen carefully to what employers are saying, draw on their knowledge of what their systems can offer, and help design and implement joint solutions to the employers’ needs. With employers, public systems and other private stakeholders at the table, the intermediary must manage their input, ideas, questions, and even their doubts.

Does this sound familiar?

    * We tried that 10 years ago, and it didn’t work.

If this sounds familiar, this is a chance to ask some questions that help illuminate why “it didn’t work.” In other words, there may be a good reason why that curriculum developed 10 years ago (or even last year) is sitting on a shelf. It may not have been the right solution. This could be because the actual problem was never identified, despite best intentions.

What about this?

    * We’ve been doing that for years. You’ve just never known about it.
    * “So-and-so” has been doing that for years. We just need to market their program on a wider scale.

If these sound familiar, you may be entering into the dangerous territory of “Here’s the solution. Do you have our problem?” instead of “Here’s the problem. What’s the underlying cause of the problem? What is the right solution?”

Managing the partnership is more than just coordination. It requires facilitating partners in a way that breaks through the surface of the challenges facing employers in order to identify their underlying root causes. It also requires facilitating second looks at existing programs that may or may not be solutions to the challenges. Making these key connections will provide direction to the partnership that will help to ensure the best possible solutions are identified and implemented.

Every Initiative Needs a Way to Maintain Momentum and Energy

Every initiative faces the challenge of maintaining the energy that may have jumpstarted the effort. In fact, if the intermediary and/or a set of Employer Champions do not continue to provide leadership and outreach to partners, momentum may even wane immediately following the first meeting. Why does this happen? Because each stakeholder must return to their firm, agency or organization and confront the ultimate questions: Does this effort support my needs, my organization’s mission? Is this the right place to put my energy and my organization’s time?

To avoid downturns in energy, the intermediary of the partnership will need to follow a certain set of steps that immediately follow any initial engagement or “Kick-off” meetings, including:

  • Begin meeting regularly, but always have a clear objective for each meeting (never meet for the sake of meeting). Remember to be cautious with the time offered by or required of employer members.
  • Name your effort. This is a good time to get input from partners on what this group is really all about. Naming your effort (e.g. The Manufacturing Roundtable, the Healthcare Career Services Council, M-Powered, or the Extended Care Career Ladder Initiative) is an easy, fun way to create buy-in and ownership from partners.
  • Begin to implement the steps in your initiative's plan immediately, understanding that the plan can (and should) always evolve based on new input by the partnership. Make it clear to partners that this is the transition from the planning phase into the implementation phase.
  • Identify programs, resources, and policies that affect the nature of the industry’s workforce challenges. This is often referred to as a “resource map” or “program scan.” It also should evolve as new programs or resources are discovered.

It may be helpful to envision the natural life cycle of a sector initiative to understand where and how management is needed. This is also a useful tool to share with partners.

Staffing the Partnership

Every sector initiative needs a dedicated intermediary to coordinate its activities, and every intermediary must dedicate the right staff time to carry out needed coordination. The risks of not dedicating time and staff to the effort run high, including setting expectations for outcomes that cannot be realized, and mobilizing partners only to have them leave discouraged. When staffing the initiative, consider that:

  • Funding for one or more staff persons may be best secured by leveraging joint investments from key partners. Alternatively, if start-up funding to support a staff person can be secured for the first six-months or year, the partnership might be willing to jointly fund his/her continuation based on early success.
  • The job description of the staff person(s) should highlight some basic requirements, including a high level of organization, good customer relations, the ability to listen, and the capacity to facilitate a diverse group of stakeholders. He/she must also be able to communicate the purpose of the partnership, explain how each stakeholder can benefit from the partnership, and clarify roles and responsibilities of members. The most effective intermediaries also have an understanding of the issues that confront the specific industry sector, and often are recruited from the ranks of the industry.

Creating a Strategic Plan

Sector initiatives require a fine balance between maintaining focus on the goals and tasks at-hand and being open to new ideas or changes in course. This is where a road map can be useful. When changes occur (such as new members entering the partnership; a shift in immediate skills challenges in the industry; sudden changes to funding), the partnership needs a way to accomodate changing circumstances while staying focused on longer term goals. Developing a strategic plan early in the initiative's lifecycle will make this easier. It will also offer the partnership a framework for focusing decision-making, for defining success, and for maximizing limited time and resources.

A good strategic plan is more than a timeline of tasks toward a future goal. It should build directly off of the regional and industry analysis conducted in the early phases of the partnership's development. It should include a traditional SWOT analysis that walks the partners through potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the initiative. It should take into account current economic and political trends. Most importantly, it should include a unifying vision of the change desired by the partners. A set of clear goals (stick to 3 to 5) should be developed by consensus of the partnership, and each goal should be articulated with a measurable indicator of success. Getting all this on paper requires facilitation either by the intermediary or a third-party facilitator. This toolkit includes a variety of strategic planning tools that can help. A strategic plan is never final or set in stone, but it is a blueprint for the partnership to take action and monitor their progress.

Coordinating Logistics and Information

Coordinating Logistics

Taking care of the “administrivia” of a sector initiative is the responsibility of the intermediary, and can be a significant task, including:

  • Coordinating the logistics of meetings, such as invitations, securing a site, obtaining tools such as audio-visual equipment and flip-charts, making copies of the agenda and materials, and arranging for food and beverages if expected.
  • Being the timekeeper at meetings so they are efficient and respect the time of all members.
  • Creating focused agendas and facilitating effective meetings.
  • Aiding and coordinating the implementation of the actual activities of the partnership beyond meetings, such as industry analyses or the development of products.
  • Following up with individual members to keep them informed and involved, and to check their progress or needs on commitments and activities.
  • Arranging one-on-one meetings between stakeholders or members, or setting up special work groups or committees as the partnership moves forward. This might include establishing an advisory group or executive committee of the partnership to help guide and move the initiative forward effectively. 

Organizing Information

Prioritizing the information that the partners of a sector initiative discuss, decide, request, and offer is a primary function of an intermediary, and can take significant time and skill. The task of organizing information may include: 

  • Creating a formalized organizational chart for your initiative that illustrates lines of decision-making and levels of member participation.
  • Keeping and distributing meeting minutes and meeting agendas with notes so all partners are informed of decisions and next steps.
  • Tracking and sharing decisions made outside of formal meetings, such as those made during one-on-one conversations. This can be easily done by maintaining a decision log document or similar online tool.
  • Creating effective agendas for meetings that directly build on decisions and next steps offered through input from partners, and that ensures forward-movement of the initiative.
  • Maintaining an on-line blog or similar product where partners can immediately access information and add thoughts or links to resources.
  • Overseeing the collection and analysis of data that supports the evaluation criteria established by the sector partnership.

Chapter 4 Review Questions

  1. What is your staffing plan to coordinate and manage the logistics of the partnership?
  2. What are your plans for managing information across partners?
  3. What timeline and expectations does the partnership have for implementing your sector initiative? Consider where you want to be in 6 and 12 months.
  4. What fiscal support does the partnership have right now? How will you leverage additional and on-going support?