Regional, industry-focused sector strategies align public agencies with industries, provide an operational framework for workforce development services, and create a strategic lens through which regional talent development is carried out. When paired with career pathways tied to growth sectors, choices are broader and better with more beneficial outcomes for employers and workers. This approach seeks to develop a culture that embraces sectors and helps everyone in the workforce development system engage with the changes.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act has catalyzed innovation as states and regions move to implement changes in their workforce development systems. Missouri is expanding the scope of this transformation, combining sector strategies and customer-centered design principles in an effort to change what services are delivered and how Job Centers deliver them.
Best-practice sector strategies are based in part on diverse data sets indicating industry sectors that are growing, expected to grow, highly-concentrated, or emerging regionally. These data also offer insight into regional demographics, education and credential attainment, and other factors that help regions better understand their talent pools. Validated and vetted data becomes the foundation for selecting targeted sectors and developing strategies for building the workforce those sectors need.
Regionally-based planning focuses beyond geographic and jurisdictional borders to align partners, strategies, investments, and service delivery with economic regions. Regional planning approaches seek to build talent pipelines that will meet the needs of critical regional industries and employers while simultaneously providing enhanced opportunities for citizens to enter and advance in family-sustaining careers along clear pathways.
Employer engagement is a foundational component of sector strategy development as talent pipeline strategies for key industries must be driven by employers’ stated needs. Connecting with employers and building deep and sustained industry partnerships enables the workforce system to appreciate industry trends and dynamics, understand employers’ training and workforce needs, solicit feedback on and guidance to the system, and implement value-added strategies and services that address industries’ identified workforce needs.
Career pathways are employer-driven education, training, and credential sequences that align to talent needs of targeted industry sectors. Pathways articulate the full range of K-12, adult education, and post-secondary education assets and embed “stackable” industry-recognized credentials. Career pathways accelerate educational attainment and career advancement in high-demand occupational areas by making work a central context for learning, integrating foundational and technical education, and providing students and workers with key supports.
Measuring success is a critical component to both the continuous improvement process and to meeting required accountability standards. Assessing the impacts of sector strategies efforts for both employer and job seeker/worker customers – beyond program-based performance measures – is central to ensuring that those strategies deliver meaningful and valued results from customers’ perspectives.