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Sector partnerships are increasingly recognized as an effective method for aligning education, economic, and workforce development systems to address industry-identified labor market needs. The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which replaces the Workforce Investment Act, shifts from an “employment first” strategy to one which emphasizes credential attainment through the use of sector partnerships and career pathways.
Sector partnerships are comprised of industries with shared needs, as well as various education, workforce, economic, and community organizations in supportive roles. These partnerships develop and continuously evaluate goals, policies, and service-delivery strategies to meet the needs of employers in a given sector. In doing so, they operate within labor market regions, and are not confined to municipal, county, educational, or state boundaries. Effective sector partnerships are industry-driven, meaning industries identify needs and assume the lead role in developing strategies which address their identified needs.
Career pathways are one strategy utilized by sector partnerships to address industry-identified labor market needs. Career pathways organize education and training into a coherent, stackable sequence aligned within specific occupations within a given industry. In that way, career pathways support an individual in developing the personal, technical, and employability skills required for advancement within an industry, and transitioning from training and education into the workforce. Colleges, primary and secondary schools, economic development agencies, workforce service providers, employers, labor groups and social service providers all play a vital role in the successful development of career pathways.
Sector Partnership Leadership Council
As called for in Iowa’s Unified State Plan, the Sector Partnership Leadership Council (SPLC) will assume the lead role in the development, implementation, and achievement of policies and objectives related to sector partnerships and career pathways across the state. The SPLC will serve in formal advisory role to the Iowa Workforce Development State Board of Directors on matters related to sector partnerships and career pathways. The SPLC membership emphasizes business, industry, and employer representation so that the council is truly industry led and oriented.
Sector Partnerships in Iowa - Inventory and Mapping Report
An exploratory survey was conducted in December 2015 to begin the inventory and mapping process of sector partnerships in Iowa and the findings were published in the Sector Partnership & Career Pathway Advisory Council – Overview and Survey Findings report. At that time, an estimated 40 sector partnership groups were operating at various levels of maturity, serving over 85 counties, across a wide range of industries in Iowa.
An initiative to expand upon that baseline work and provide a much more accurate and robust view of the current sector partnership landscape in Iowa was completed in July 2017 through a partnership between Iowa Central Community College, Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Department of Education, and the University of Northern Iowa’s researchiQ (a collaboration between Strategic Marketing Services and Institute for Decision Making). Through quantitative and qualitative primary research, along with supplementary secondary market research, the updated Inventory of Sector Partnerships in Iowa – July 2017 report has been released, including the updated contact information for approximately 60 sector partnerships across the state, now serving all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
In partnership with the Future Ready Iowa initiative and support partners, an interactive statewide map has also been developed and will continue to be enhanced in the Sector Partnership section of the Future Ready Iowa portal. In addition to being an educating and informing resource about sector partnership work across the state, the intention of this project is to also assist in connecting these partnership groups with one another to build relationships and achieve greater efficiencies through increased collaboration and sharing of information.
Sectors of Opportunity - Career Pathway Mapping Projects
The focus of the Future Ready Iowa initiative is the placement of more Iowans into high-demand, well-paying careers in industries such as Information Technology (IT) and Energy & Utilities. General mystique and confusion are often associated with careers in these two fields, which lead to inaccurate stereotypes, the facilitation of incorrect information, and ultimately shortages in local qualified, skilled labor. Under the guidance of the SPLC, the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) partnered with the Council of Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and Iowa Central Community College (ICCC) to conduct exploratory research and develop career pathway materials for these two exciting career sectors in Iowa.
Information Technology Career Pathway Mapping
The Technology Association of Iowa (TAI) partnered with the IDOE, CAEL, and ICCC to provide basic, visually appealing career pathway documentation for local communities to use when engaging job seekers of all ages, backgrounds, and career aspirations. With the expanding list of new and exciting careers across a wide range of industries in Iowa, there really is a career for everyone in IT.
These newly developed career pathway materials are meant to start the conversation about the breadth of potential careers within the IT industry. Links have been added to the document for each highlighted career, re-directing users to additional information through the interactive Future Ready Iowa online portal, when available or for similar occupations throughout Iowa. Users can then attain a more accurate picture of the local career outlook, wages, education offerings, current job postings, and employers. The last page has also been left blank for local sector partnership teams to use when customizing for outreach initiatives within their communities. Additional detailed career pathways can then be developed and implemented on a more localized basis by members of the sector partnership teams.
Energy and Utilities Career Pathway Mapping
The statewide energy sector partnership the Iowa Energy Workforce Consortium (IEWC) partnered with the IDOE, CAEL, and ICCC to provide basic, visually appealing career pathway documentation similar to those provided through the IT partnership work with TAI. These newly developed materials are meant to start the conversation about the breadth of potential careers within the Energy and Utilities industry.
Iowa’s energy industry forms the backbone of communities across the state. Every time a light or stove is turned on, a connection is being made to an exciting field that employs tens of thousands of Iowans. Energy companies in electric, natural gas, oil, and renewable energy technologies represent a range of growth careers for everyone. The Opportunities in Energy: Iowa document provides energy career pathways information that showcases career opportunities for a range of occupation families and clear pathways for how to advance within or towards different high-demand and well-paying careers throughout Iowa. Links to careers on the Future Ready Iowa portal and other interactive features are also currently being developed to further enhance this tool.
Sector Partnership Toolkits and Resouces
A collaborative effort by the state to provide guidance and training on sector partnerships has resulted in the development of a series of downloadable toolkit publications. These toolkits are not exhaustive, but rather aimed at preparing the state and regions to make data-informed critical decisions throughout the three developmental stages of planning, emerging, and sustaining sector partnerships. Each toolkit covers a wide range of topics, advice, real world examples, and supplemental materials that will be helpful at each of these three stages.
Toolkit 3.0: Sustaining (Release date - September 2017)
Additional stand-alone training materials are also being developed to help guide and assist sector partnerships across the state, often in collaboration with subject matter experts, such as the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and Iowa Workforce Development (IWD). These materials are meant to be used in conjunction with the toolkit publications to cover a more diverse set of topics or to dive deeper into strategies and concepts briefly covered in the toolkits. Contact Joe Collins with ideas or requests for future training materials and needs to ensure Iowa sector partnerships keep running smoothly and efficiently.
Sector Partnership Facilitator Trainings
In partnership with CAEL, the SPLC sponsored a series of sessions designed to train a cadre of sector partnership facilitators who will both support existing and assist in cultivating future sector partnerships.
First in the series
On September 6, 2016, a webinar, entitled "Iowa Sector Partnership Facilitator Training," was conducted by CAEL’s James Reddish on the basics of sector partnerships to ensure that both existing and potential facilitators possess the same foundational knowledge. If you missed this webinar you are encouraged to view the recording of the September 6 webinar recording and presentation slides.
Second in the series
A more advanced face-to-face session was also offered by CAEL in a few locations throughout Iowa in October 2016. Presentation Slides
Ongoing series: Facilitator Certification Program
A comprehensive state-wide facilitator certification program is being developed through a partnership with the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Workforce Development, and additional members of the Future Ready Iowa initiative to further expand on the strategies outlined in the series of sector partnership toolkit publications. The toolkits are meant to act as an overview of recommended strategies, concepts, and theoretical models. Additional training to be offered will span a longer period of time and cover a wide range of topics recommended for the successful formation and facilitation of a high performing sector partnership, to include, but not limited to:
- business and industry engagement
- facilitation and presentation skills
- data mining and interpretation
- partnership performance metrics
- project delegation and management
- career pathway development
- customer relationship management
- economic & community development
These offerings will be made available throughout the year as local in-person training events, online webinars, pre-recorded trainings, and other downloadable content. Similar to the Future Ready Iowa initiative, a few of the primary goals of this facilitator training will be to highlight best practices, nurture high-quality partnerships between regions, and attain efficiencies through collaboration. Resources will be shared by the team through consistent in-person and online interaction to ensure the success of each sector partnership, regardless of current stage of development, geographic location, or industry focus.
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