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Primary Data Collection

In addition to the statistical data that is available, you should collect information about the workforce needs as perceived by employers in your region. It is highly recommended that you conduct at least some field research to collect information from employers in your targeted region and industry. There are several ways to do this:

  • Conduct individual interviews. For interviews, develop talking points and questions for employers about their current workforce, current skill shortages, future skill shortages, current training, recruiting, retention practices, and what they view as their most pressing needs. Use the information collected in developing the mission of the sector partnership.
  • Use surveys. Surveys can cover the same information described above, or may be more limited and used as an introduction and invitation to greater involvement.
  • Convene an industry meeting, or similar event. An industry meeting is an opportunity to: (1) validate data collected to date; (2) gain qualitative data through a roundtable discussion or through a focus group to learn how employers react to the data gathered thus far; and (3) begin to engage employers and other stakeholders around a planned process, initiative, or strategy. In addition to data collected at the actual event, this is an opportunity to identify employers who are willing to participate in additional activities, or eventually in the sector partnership. (See more information and tools for industry meetings.)
TAKE NOTE: You may have noticed that although this toolkit presents activities in steps and phases, the true timeline of a sector partnership will vary depending on the current knowledge of the initial convener and planning committee, the industry, the region, and other factors. You may collect information from employers as part of your regional needs assessment, or you may combine this activity with the Convening and Planning phase. The reality is that both activities (employer input on industry challenges and initial convening of the partnership) often happen in unison, or as parallel efforts.

All of these strategies for collecting information, both statistical and qualitative information directly given by employers, should be heavily relied upon at the start-up of the sector partnership and in routine operations.

This means that data collection and analysis is an on-going activity, and should be utilized even as a sector partnership matures and evolves over time.

Remember that the goal of the partnership is to better organize the workforce development system to meet the needs of employers, which can change. The best way to meet those needs is to accurately identify them as they change. The advantage of a sector partnership is the ability to be flexible to changes in the industry and its needs, based on the direct input from firms in the industry, and the ability to bring in new partners that can help meet current needs.

Finally, based on the information collected on the target industry, and its workforce needs, a scan of resources and stakeholders in the community should be conducted. Initial conveners and the “planning committee” should ask:

  • What organizations do employers and workers in this industry use, if any?
  • Who is providing education and training related to the needs of this industry?
  • Who are the other “players” or stakeholders that should be involved in a partnership to address the industry needs? For example: Economic Development, Workforce Development, Chamber of Commerce, Human Services, community-based organizations, etc.?

Find out more about how to Identify Partners in Chapter 3.