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Sustainability is More than Funding

Consider that the essential elements of sustainability for your initiative can be found in the complete set of modules of this toolkit. Sustaining your partnership is much more than securing fiscal support for convening or product development. It is about: 

These powerpoint presentations describe some real-world examples of how sector initiatives approach non-financial sustainability.

As part of strategic planning, some sector initiatives embed the above essential elements into a sustainability plan that puts into writing: the definition of the partnership; the governance and management structure of the partnership; the operating costs; the financial plan; the strategies and action steps; the services and products; the performance goals and metrics; and the marketing strategies.

As your initiative evolves, consider drafting a short, one-page history of the effort. This can be an effective way to capture how the initiative has evolved, served its customers and stakeholders (employers, jobseekers, workers, community, and public systems), and how it has sustained itself over time. This can be a quick way to demonstrate effectiveness and need for on-going support.

Uncover Root Causes...It is Not Always a Training Issue

An important factor in the long-term sustainability of sector-focused efforts is ensuring that the initiative uncovers the root causes to skilled worker shortages for the particular industry. Often sector partners incorrectly assume that the solution is training related - they jump to the solution before identifying the real problem. The workforce challenge is not always a lack of industry-relevant training. It may be: 

  • A barrier to accessing the training, including schedules inaccessible to working adults, lack of support services such as childcare or transportation, or restrictions on financial aid eligibility.
  • An outdated human resource policy that is blocking qualified applicants from securing jobs in a certain occupation.
  • A misunderstanding of the actual skills needed for certain occupations.
  • A negative view of the industry and its occupations by the public.
  • Difficult working conditions which often lead to high turnover.

If the underlying cause or challenge is not uncovered, the pre-established training solution will not be effective; thus leading to unsuccessful initiatives and lack of sustainability.

Understanding Systems Change

Many long term changes require cultural and/or policy changes on behalf of the public systems or industry of focus. Sector partnerships, by their collaborative and root cause analysis nature, can lead to lasting and positive changes within the systems involved, including the industry. For example, as a result of participation in a sector partnership, a local (or even statewide) community college system may shift more resources into career relevant, stackable credit-bearing programs (versus its traditional role as a transfer station to 4-year colleges), or an industry may articulate career pathways and lattices that did not exist clearly before. Consider the following questions when thinking about the long-term sustainable outcomes of sector efforts:

Possible Indicators of Systems Change

Achievement of Scale: How many individuals and employers are impacted?

Shared Learning: Have previously un-recognized barriers to industry competitiveness or career advancement been discovered?

Changed Behavior: Have public systems, industry, and/or worker populations changed how they carry out their work and/or how they interact with each other?

Innovation: Are there examples of new practices that meet the needs of industry and individual workers?