FAQs

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  1. Are Sector Strategies expensive?

    ​They do not need to be expensive. Sector partnerships are organizing vehicles for effectively addressing an industry’s current and emerging skill gaps. They offer a mechanism to focus scarce resources on industries that are major job providers in an area, as well as to focus comprehensively on the workforce skills, from entry level to advanced, required in a regional economy. Today’s sector partnerships should also be the organizing vehicle for addressing other industry priorities too. Often workforce or talent pipeline issues are handled by one organization under the guidance of an employer advisory committee, while supply chain issues are handled by a separate organization convening a separate group of employers, and marketing/branding issues handled by yet a different organization. Sometimes the same employers are being asked to participate in all three, or more, efforts. Good sector partnerships offer a mechanism for aligning these efforts for a shared, target industry and saving money through efficiencies and economies of scale.

  2. Businesses in my region are too competitive to cooperate; can this work in my area?

    ​Yes, if you have the right industry champions to generate interest and a trusted, neutral convener to host the first meeting. The basis for creating a partnership is having businesses identify what they have in common in the way of shared opportunities and obstacles. There is strength in numbers, and employers that commit to collaboration create a bigger lever with which they can negotiate systemic changes in education and training while saving time and effort. They get a greater return on investment, improve their competitive position and achieve higher profitability.

  3. Do we need all the businesses in an industry to participate?

    ​No. Business-led sector partnerships are coalitions of the willing. A partnership could be started with just a handful of like-minded employers that can agree on common issues of concern and opportunities that can be more effectively exploited by working together.

  4. How do I generate interest in a regional sector partnership in my area?

    ​There is a playbook for starting a partnership in the Illinois Framework. The first key step is identify a trusted, well-known and respected, industry champion (think CEO) that can recruit his or her peers to join a collaborative.

  5. We already have many overlapping political boundaries between counties, local workforce areas, economic development and secondary and post-secondary school districts. How do sector partnerships manage to deal with all these conflicting boundaries?

    ​They ignore them. Sector partnerships provide a means for industry in a shared labor market region to engage directly with key programs and support organizations. Businesses operate in economic regions that cross city, county, and state lines, as well as workforce, education and economic development areas. Sector partnerships act across these boundaries so that companies don’t have to navigate multiple and complex services across many different jurisdictions. They also act as the single table at which businesses can engage these multiple programs and organizations.

  6. What are Sector Partnerships?

    ​Partnerships of companies, from the same industry and in a shared labor market region, with education, workforce development, economic development, community organizations and other stakeholders that collectively focus on a set of priorities that matter to the health and competitiveness of their industry. Traditionally, sector initiatives exclusively focus on education and training issues. Today’s sector partnerships in many places are more expansive. Education and training are always top priorities, but not always the only priorities.

  7. What are Sector Strategies?

    Sector Strategies are regional, employer-driven partnerships of industry, education, training, and other stakeholders that focus on the workforce needs of key industries in a regional labor market. Sector initiatives rely on neutral intermediaries (or conveners) to engage employers and other key stakeholders; to develop expertise in the industry of focus; and to coordinate information and resources to develop and implement effective, coordinated responses. The terms “Sector-Strategies”, “Sector Initiatives” and “Sector Partnerships” have evolved over time. Now we are seeing the terms “Sector-Based Initiatives” and “Sector-Based Partnerships or Collaboratives” gain popularity. While some purists might argue there are subtle differences between these terms, most people now use them almost interchangeably to refer to public-private partnerships between: a regional industry group; economic development; education and training; and workforce development systems; plus other systems that have an impact on regional employer competitiveness in a given sector.

  8. What are the key components of Sector Strategies?

    1. ​Data driven decision making
    2. Industry leadership and engagement
    3. Sector-based service delivery based on business needs not program needs
    4. Sustainability through employer investment
    5. Organizational capacity and alignment
  9. What are the key differences in how a sector partnership operates compared to traditional methods of economic and workforce development?

    ​Sector Strategies are a significant departure from traditional economic and workforce development practices.

    Traditional Business Engagement​Results
    ​Is Program-Based
    ​Available programs drive services which may or may not meet business needs
    ​Addresses Needs Independently​Individual agencies provide services through their programs that may or may not align with or leverage resources available from other partners
    ​Works to Understand Individual Needs of Businesses ​Individual business needs are met as staffing and programming resources are available


    ​Sector Partnerships
    ​Results
    ​Are Based on Industry Priorities​Business needs drive development of solutions which programming supports
    ​Address Needs Interdependently​Workforce system and other partners collaborate to use their individual programs and resources to create solutions that meet industry and job seeker needs and are right-sized for regional demand (ex. Career Pathways)
    ​Works to Understand Collective Needs of Business​Companies in a like industry benefit from solutions that address their shared needs, resulting in the right industry-driven solutions at the right scale and right time.

    The differences between Sector Strategies and traditional approaches are further highlighted by the elements shown here. The differences can be grouped into a few key groups:
    1. Focus – clusters of employer partners and their needs not the needs of programs or their participants
    2. Leadership – business champions, leads and funds the effort not government
    3. Data-Driven – building on existing strengths and identifying opportunities for collaborative growth not wishful thinking and unicorns

    What Works Well and Not So Well Image


  10. Why does the Illinois Framework refer to “Next Generation Sector Partnerships”?

    ​The first sector strategies were typically proposed by public-sector workforce systems supported by funds from private foundations or in some cases, from the Workforce Investment Act or other government funding. There were some promising developments from these initial efforts but few proved to be sustainable. Most partnerships lasted as long as the funding then faded away. Next Generation partnerships are designed to be sustainable through employer-led partnerships supported by employer contributions.