Promising Strategy Trains Workers for Jobs in Today’s Economy, Meets Employer Needs

Posted June 12, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Newsrelease promisingstrategytrainsworkers 2014

New book pro­vides results and lessons from sec­tor strate­gies in the work­force devel­op­ment field

Over the past decade, with many Amer­i­cans striv­ing to build their skills to get jobs in a rapid­ly chang­ing econ­o­my, the work­force devel­op­ment field has wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant increase in strate­gies that meet the needs of both job seek­ers and employ­ers. A new book, Con­nect­ing Peo­ple to Work: Work­force Inter­me­di­aries and Sec­tor Strate­gies, doc­u­ments results and lessons from such strate­gies, which pro­mote part­ner­ships to con­nect skilled work­ers to employ­ment in indus­try sec­tors rang­ing from health care to construction.

Many com­mu­ni­ties are not well-con­nect­ed to employ­ers with good jobs, and those employ­ers often miss the oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­nect to work­ers who have or could quick­ly acquire the skills they need. Sec­tor strate­gies focus not only on the spe­cif­ic skills that employ­ers need but the real-world chal­lenges faced by low-income workers.

The book includes chap­ters by promi­nent non­prof­it and phil­an­thropic lead­ers, aca­d­e­mics and researchers that describe how these sec­tor strate­gies craft work­force pro­grams with­in tar­get­ed region­al eco­nom­ic sec­tors. This approach has emerged over some 30 years but has received new sup­port and atten­tion in the past decade. A key tenet of the strat­e­gy is to train and sup­port work­ers while tai­lor­ing such pro­grams to meet the hir­ing needs of employ­ers in spe­cif­ic indus­tri­al sectors.

One chap­ter in the book high­lights the Wis­con­sin Region­al Train­ing Part­ner­ship, which has two decades of expe­ri­ence prepar­ing job­seek­ers for open­ings in con­struc­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing and oth­er fields — part­ner­ing with busi­ness­es and unions to cus­tomize train­ing to meet employ­ers’ hir­ing needs. A 2010 eval­u­a­tion found that pro­gram par­tic­i­pants earned near­ly 25 per­cent more than coun­ter­parts who did not take part in the pro­gram — an addi­tion­al $6,255 — over a 24-month period.

The results in Wis­con­sin and beyond, which are chron­i­cled in the book, make clear that such work­force strate­gies can play a role in cre­at­ing viable oppor­tu­ni­ties for more Amer­i­cans to gain the skills they need to achieve greater finan­cial stability.

Sec­tor strate­gies are suc­cess­ful­ly devel­op­ing new approach­es to prepar­ing peo­ple for jobs in today’s econ­o­my and show­ing impor­tant results for work­ers and employ­ers,” said Mau­reen Con­way, vice pres­i­dent of The Aspen Insti­tute and coed­i­tor of Con­nect­ing Peo­ple to Work. These strate­gies have been in the van­guard of reshap­ing work­force ini­tia­tives to be respon­sive to eco­nom­ic changes and tai­lored to address work­ers’ chal­lenges and industry’s needs.”

Con­nect­ing Peo­ple to Work dis­cuss­es the need for these work­force strate­gies at a time when many peo­ple are out of work or under­em­ployed and face a labor mar­ket that is dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate. Too many work­ers today earn too lit­tle to make ends meet, and they often lack the time or resources to par­tic­i­pate in local edu­ca­tion pro­grams — pro­grams that may or may not help them find work. Many low-wage work­ers often need addi­tion­al sup­port as they go through train­ing, an approach gen­er­al­ly adopt­ed by sec­tor strategies.

The book fea­tures case stud­ies of sec­tor strate­gies in the health care, con­struc­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing and restau­rant indus­tries, and high­lights how pol­i­cy and eco­nom­ic changes and new prac­tices among edu­ca­tion and train­ing insti­tu­tions are affect­ing work­force efforts. Also includ­ed are eval­u­a­tion results and a review of major sec­tor-financ­ing strate­gies, includ­ing the Nation­al Fund for Work­force Solu­tions, which brings togeth­er local and nation­al fun­ders, employ­ers and nonprofits.

The book is a fol­low-up vol­ume to Work­force Inter­me­di­aries for the 21st Cen­tu­ry, pub­lished a decade ago fol­low­ing a nation­al con­ven­ing on the sub­ject spon­sored by the Amer­i­can Assem­bly at Colum­bia University.

The sec­toral approach to work­force devel­op­ment con­tin­ues to demon­strate promise and gain atten­tion,” said the book’s coed­i­tor, Robert P. Giloth, a vice pres­i­dent at the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. While sec­tor strate­gies alone can­not solve the enor­mous issues of pover­ty and income inequal­i­ty, they have proven they can be part of our response, and now is the time to build on their record of success.”

To do just that, Con­nect­ing Peo­ple to Work makes the case for:

  • the pub­lic sec­tor to expand its sup­port for these work­force strategies;
  • the phil­an­thropic com­mu­ni­ty to main­tain and increase its investments;
  • the pri­vate sec­tor to com­mit wide­ly to the sec­tor approach; and
  • the work­force field to embrace these train­ing pro­grams and sup­port inno­va­tion and analysis.

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