Submitted by Aleece Smith, Sector Strategies Coordinator KentuckianaWorks

As times change, so do industry needs and both are now changing more rapidly than ever.  Workforce development professionals have learned that we need to be able to meaningfully engage with stakeholders to provide a relevant response to workforce concerns. 

At KentuckianaWorks, the local workforce development board for the Louisville, Kentucky, region, we have taken the sector strategies approach to better understand how the public workforce system can partner with employers to identify skill needs.  One of the most visible parts of the sector strategies process has been the convening of sector partners. Insights from these employer-forward gatherings inform how our programs can train job seekers, setting them up for career success and improved chances for economic mobility. Working closely with industry leaders has helped us uncover several talent pipeline challenges, such as awareness building among underrepresented populations and improving access to industry-specific training.  Lately, having an established communications routine with these industry groups has proven helpful in capturing real-time snapshots of our regional economic health and in job matching for workers unable to access unemployment insurance.

I recently shared my experience advancing industry partnerships with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration to assist in creating resources for the Customizing Competency Models Through Convening Guide.

The Guide provides a variety of resources including:

  • Sample agendas for virtual or in-person meetings with partners;
  • Convening discussion questions to spark conversation and uncover needs; and
  • Real-life examples from states and organizations that have led successful sector partnerships.

One of workforce professionals’ key functions is listening to partners to understand what their specific needs are and how we can work together to create workforce solutions for more job seekers. This is particularly important at a time when the economy is affecting populations who have historically had limited access to jobs that put them on the path to career growth.  We need tools that more clearly demonstrate how to widen career opportunities for all.  Although employers cannot be the only stakeholders we consult to move forward, this guide makes that step a little less daunting.

Check out the Customizing Competency Models Through Convening Guide to learn about starting a conversation with local industry about their needs and how you can be part of the solution.