Illinois has been a pioneer in the field of sector strategies for a decade, and boasts some strong examples of local/regional sector initiatives and partnerships. But other states and regions are fast catching up. Thousands of sector efforts exist across the country, and programs in education, workforce development and economic development are all getting the same call to action from on high: Build stronger partnerships with industry to develop a talent pipeline that drives economic and community prosperity. As a result, across the nation, like in Illinois, community and technical colleges are re-thinking traditional approaches to engaging employers; local workforce boards and organizations are stepping up their game with improved and coordinated business services; and local and regional economic development organizations and business associations, including many Chambers of Commerce, are broadening their scope of influence to include talent and workforce development as core to their mission. There is enormous opportunity in Illinois because of this alignment in vision and strategy. There is also a risk: if regional programs and organizations in each of these systems build partnerships with industry independently of each other, duplication of effort and inefficiencies will increase dramatically.
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) see a new, shared opportunity in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to use good sector partnership approaches to advance and align education and training inputs and outcomes with industry talent pipeline needs. Sector partnerships are a key component of WIOA. For state-level partners charged with overseeing effective system implementation, it is therefore important to help create consistent and broad take-up of the sector partnership model to better serve the system’s dual customers: employers and jobseekers.