By Neila Neary

Sector Strategies are industry-focused strategies that rely on strong partnerships of employers, policy makers, educators, and community organizations to make informed decisions about workforce needs and solutions that will keep regional industry strong and provide quality jobs and advancement opportunities for workers. The National Governor’s Association defines State Sector Strategies as “regional, industry-specific approaches to workforce needs, implemented by an employer-driven partnership of relevant systems and stakeholders.”*

The goal of Sector Strategies is to build regional talent pipelines, address skill shortages, and create meaningful Career Pathways for a range of workers in specific industry sectors.

Advocated by Workforce Development Boards, but driven by employers, Sector Strategies are regional in scope and industry-specific.

Massachusetts has been piloting sector strategies since the late 1990s. In 2000, it enacted the Massachusetts Extended Care Career Ladder Initiative to improve the quality of nursing home care, in large part by increasing workers’ skills. ECCLI provided grants to consortiums of nursing homes, community colleges, and others to create career ladders and to address staff training, work environment, and quality of care. It initially focused on assisting food service and patient care assistants to become Certified Nurses Aids; then to providing a ladder to help CNAs move into Licensed Practical Nurse positions.

In 2003 the state began implementing a formal, statewide sector strategy. In 2006, the state passed legislation that established the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to assist regional sector partnerships. Shortly after being sworn in, Governor Baker established the Workforce Skills Cabinet in 2015, comprised of the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development and the Secretaries of Education, Housing, and Economic Development, to create a formal structure within the Administration to set up guiding principles and policies to align economic, workforce, and education systems to better address the workforce skills gap in Massachusetts.

The following are examples of how Sector Strategies have been implemented in Massachusetts.

South Shore Community Action Council Inc., a nonprofit organization serving low-income people on the South Shore, provided Commercial Driver’s License training to unemployed/underemployed participants in a range of occupations for industry partners: First Student, Town of Carver, and Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Company. Working with Plymouth Career Center, Massasoit Community College, Plymouth South Vocational High School, and the South Shore Workforce Development Board, SSCAC provided CDL Permit Preparation Courses and Class B CDL Training Courses to prepare participants for jobs within a broad cross-section of industries in need of Class B CDL licensed drivers.

A Regional Healthcare Partnership formed by the Cape and Islands Workforce Development Board was driven by employer partners Duffy Health Center, EPOCH Senior Healthcare of Brewster, Harbor Community Health Center-Hyannis, Liberty Commons, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (Sandwich Location), The Pavilion Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing, Windemere Nursing Home/MV Hospital, and Cape Cod Healthcare.

Working with Career Opportunities, Cape Cod Community College, Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, and the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School District, the Partnership provided a variety of training and student supports to address a range of healthcare employer needs. Target occupations include: Certified Nursing Assistant, Certified Physical Therapy Assistant, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, ICD 10 Medical Coder, CNA to Licensed Practical Nurse training, Licensed Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse training, and Certified Medical Assistant training. Target populations for this training included unemployed/underemployed adults and incumbent workers.

With the help of the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, The Bristol Workforce Development Board created the Bristol Manufacturing Partnership, which brought together workforce development, vocational technical schools, and employer partners to better prepare unemployed and underemployed individuals for jobs at regional manufacturing businesses. They created a training program at two vocational schools to prepare adult participants for jobs as computer numerically controlled programmers and machinists − positions that were in high demand and provided graduates with a promise of a brighter future.

Sector Strategies have reaped some amazing results throughout the country. The reality is that the success of these employer-driven programs is only as good as the feedback and cooperation Workforce Development Boards, Educators and Community organizations receive from participating employers. If your industry is having difficulty filling certain key positions and you would be open to letting us assist you in your efforts to fill those positions, contact your Workforce Development Board or One Stop Career Center for the South Shore at southshorecareercenters.org or for the Cape and Islands at capejobs.com.

Neila H. Neary MBA, CPRW, is the Business Services Manager for Career Opportunities. She can be reached at nneary@jteccorp.com or (508) 862-6134.

*State Sector Strategies Coming of Age, a paper that is a joint product of Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, National Skills Coalition and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.