You are here

Things to Consider

If the challenges outlined above speak to you or describe similar situations in your region, a sector initiative may be an effective mechanism for change. You will want to consider a range of factors before deciding on a sector approach, including the following suggested items:

Industry Analysis: Seeking Out Economic Impact and Career Mobility Opportunities

Sector initiatives focus on one industry by engaging multiple employers within that industry to identify common challenges and implement a customized solution to those challenges. A key element of a sector approach is a focus on an industry that will yield the greatest economic benefit to a region, and the greatest job opportunities to a region’s workers. Another way of framing this concept is a focus on those industries that represent the “economic drivers” of a regional economy. Conveners of a sector partnership or early adaptors of such an approach will need to undertake a Regional Needs Assessment, asking questions such as:

  • Which industries are concentrated in our region?
  • What is their potential for growth?
  • What types of jobs are available in that industry?
  • Are there levels of occupations that signal worker advancement opportunities?
  • Are there observable skilled worker challenges experienced by that industry?

Convener: An Intermediary Entity that can do the Job

Sector initiatives across the country are coordinated by a single entity, known as a Partnership Intermediary. In each sector initiative, the convener varies depending on the target industry, the nature of the region, and the best fit to the needs of the sector partnership. For example, a convener may be a local workforce board, an industry association, a community-based organization, a labor management partnership, and others. Regardless of the type of entity, the convener is responsible for coordinating the efforts by the partnership. They usually possess knowledge of the target industry, they facilitate data analysis, goal-setting, strategic planning, employer engagement, and on-going stakeholder input. They do not chart the course of the partnership, but are critical to its implementation.

Employer Engagement Strategies: Maximizing their Time and Offering Solutions

A general rule for engaging employers is to respect their time, keeping in mind that as a primary customer of public workforce and economic development, they might choose to go elsewhere to get their needs met (e.g. another region, another state, another country). At the same time, sector conveners must engage employers from the very beginning if they expect industry needs to truly drive the dialogue and outcomes of a sector approach. This requires business-savy on the part of the convener, including the ability to “speak their language,” avoid jargon, and know their interest in being involved. See Rules of Thumb for Engaging Employers for more.

Regional Stakeholders: Understanding the Playing Field

Who in your region matters to the target industry, to the worker population in your region, and to the ability to connect workers to industry? Every early sector initiative undertakes a scan of the potential partners in a region. The stakeholders you engage will play different roles in the planning, design and implementation of the initiative. They also will contribute diverse resources, knowledge, and levels of commitment. Who are the potential stakeholders? They are many and diverse, including: CEOs or other industry leaders; trade or business associations; labor union representatives; industry experts; community based organizations that offer support services to workers; key public agencies such as workforce development boards or one-stops, economic development agencies, and others; community colleges or universities; community training providers; job placement services; and more. Initial conveners and early planners of an initiative will need to Identify Partners that best fit the needs of their region and industry.

Common Goals: Identifying the Challenge and Change that Inspires Everyone

An essential (and early) activity in every sector initiative is the development of a common mission that unifies the diverse stakeholder group toward a shared vision of change. The shared vision of change is not the same as a customized solution to the specific workforce challenge(s) faced by the target industry. That will surface later once an in-depth industry and labor market analysis is undertaken. The convener will play a key role in facilitating consensus around a shared vision for change, and can utilize any number of tools to achieve that end.

Resources: Time, Financial Backing, In-kind Support, and the Will of Partners

All sector partnerships, soon after their initial convening, face the following questions: How will we support the partnership? How will we support the implementation of to-be-determined solutions? How will both be sustained over the long term? A striking advantage of sector approaches is the ability to more effectively meet the needs of a regional industry by leveraging resources across public systems, and across private investments. The act of bringing diverse public systems together with employers and other stakeholders creates an opportunity to create new financial and in-kind support through blending, braiding, and leveraging existing sources. Sector conveners should facilitate early discussions about time commitments and expectations, and Sustainability Strategies should be outlined. This toolkit will provide more detail on the issues of financial support and longer-term sustainability in Part IV.

It is important to note that at this point in your decision-making, the factors listed above do not all need to be immediately addressed. This will come with time. However, they do all need to be considered. The remainder of this toolkit will delve into further detail of each of these factors, starting with industry identification and regional definition in Module 2: Regional Needs Assessment.