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Step Three: Engage and Enlist Partners and Employers

An intermediary should consider how and why the many and diverse partners are recruited. In all initial communications, share the purpose of the initiative. Provide an overview of the life cycle of a sector initiative. Explain why their participation is critical, and how their organization can benefit from participating (Sample Handout - What a Partnership Can Do For You). Be clear about partner roles and responsibilities.

Remember that employer engagement must start early, and can take different forms depending on existing relationships with employers, their knowledge of public workforce or education systems, the level of “pain” they may be feeling with their current workforce challenges, or other factors. It also takes time, and should not be rushed. (Rules of Thumb for Engaging Employers)

One of the most important success factors for a sector partner is a strong understanding of the industry, how it works, its needs and priorities, and future trends (see Chapter 2 for more on secondary and primary data sources). Conveners should use a variety of methods to build their knowledge of the industry and connect with employers.

The most important method will be talking to representatives of the target industry one-on-one.

But they may also want to:

  • Attend trade association meetings or trade shows related to the industry
  • Arrange tours of key companies in the industry
  • Talk to union leadership or attend one of their meetings
  • Attend public policy or community meetings that affect the target industry
  • Consider holding in Industry meeting or similar event

All of these methods serve at least two purposes: first, to engage employers and stakeholders; and second, to gather important information about the industry, its needs, and resources available to meet those needs. They also serve to build momentum in preparation for the first planning meetings of the partnership.

For more ideas on enlisting and engaging employer partners, check out this video.

Convening Employers: What’s in a Name?

The ability to convene employers may often hinge on the level of information and authority you seek (CEO, Human Resource Director, Front-Line Manager, or Line Worker.) As important is the expectation you set for the meeting. Consider that words can have a lot of meaning. Inviting employers to a “Summit” may indicate to that employer that they will be meeting with the highest levels of government; if that is not true the employer may be disappointed and feel as though they were misled. Consider some of these terms, often used interchangeably, and the meanings they tend to impart:

Conference – A business conference is an event organized by an association, individual, publication or private company for the purpose of networking, education or to discuss a business topic with a range of speakers.

Focus Group – A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. (Source: Wikipedia)

Forum – Forums are a medium for open discussion or voicing of ideas, such as a newspaper, a radio or television program, or a website. It can also be a public meeting or presentation involving a discussion usually among experts and often including audience participation. (Source: dictionary.com)

Roundtable – A round table is one which has no "head" and no "sides", and therefore no one person sitting at it is given a privileged position and all are treated as equals. The idea stems from the Arthurian legend about the Knights of the Round Table in Camelot. (Source: Wikipedia)

Summit – The term “summit” is one of the most misused in the public sector. To non-public sector participants, a summit meeting usually infers that the meeting will include top leaders of government (governors, mayors, cabinet officials, etc.) with considerable media exposure, expectations, and results that lead directly to action.