The Road to Successful Sector Partnerships
The Convener should be a trusted leader that has credibility with industry and other partners. The convener may be workforce, economic development or another partner. The impetus for starting this process is often a challenge. For example, the convener may already know that a particular regional industry is facing significant workforce challenges, or, more broadly, the convener may be concerned that area partners are not active enough in meeting the workforce and other needs of key industries in the region.
Partners should include workforce partners and the full spectrum of education partners, K-12 to post-secondary, as well as economic development partners who typically already have relationships with current employers and may have access to different funding streams, and others.
The convener asks partners to bring data for analysis and discussion. The partnership may consider forming a data team with representatives from each partner to present their own data and bring the group to a consensus regarding what all data mean when viewed collectively. This stage of data review should include a more in-depth analysis of key occupations across the industry, current openings, projected growth and contraction, wage levels, and other factors. The goal is to develop an understanding of the current and projected state of the industry and its key workforce dynamics and potential needs.
The convener – or another partner if better positioned – engages businesses in the target industry for an initial conversation on workforce trends, challenges and needs. If possible, the convener seeks to leverage an identified business champion to engage other businesses in refining and validating data and joining the partnership and process.
Typically, it is not ideal to have all partners at the table with business. It is critical to safeguard business’ time and commitment by ensuring that communication is streamlined and strategic. They do not need to see the “sausage making” that happens when public partners work to align their policies, programs and resources but, rather, a single unified message from the partnership.
The partnership further analyzes data, specific workforce gaps and needs, career pathways, etc., by engaging in two key activities with industry and other partners:
The identified strategies could require stopping or changing what’s already occurring or starting something new or entirely different. Strategies may span from the high level (e.g. policy and funding investments) to the ground level (e.g. changes or enhancements to service delivery). Public partners must be willing to adapt based on business needs and align their strategies to create a cohesive system.
The partnership collaboratively develops a plan for implementing the strategies that is intentional about tasks, measures, accountability and sustainability. Key components include:
The partnership should engage in an ongoing assessment of efforts to ensure they stay relevant to changing industry needs; remain necessary, as some activities may need to stop once they are no longer needed; and have the intended impact.