NSC’s new 50-state scan discovers increased support for sector partnerships

By Bryan Wilson, October 12, 2017

National Skills Coalition (NSC) has updated our 50-state scan of sector partnership policies and finds that state policies supporting sector partnerships are rapidly growing. Sector partnerships are collaborations of employers with education, training, labor, and community-based organizations to address the local skill needs of a particular industry.  Sector partnerships are a proven strategy for helping workers prepare for middle-skill jobs and helping employers find skilled workers. States can support local sector partnerships through program initiatives, technical assistance, and funding.

Our 2017 scan finds that thirty-two states have policies in place to support local sector partnerships. This is an increase of eleven states from our previous scan conducted two years ago. Of the thirty-two states, twenty-two provide funding to support local sector partnerships, an increase of seven states from two years ago. The biggest difference in funding is the increased use of Governor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Reserve Funds to support sector partnerships. Twelve states use Governor’s Reserve Funds, while just a single state used Workforce Investment Act Reserve Funds two years ago. Also, more states are providing technical assistance to local sector partnerships. Twenty-eight states now provide technical assistance; two years ago, fifteen states did so.

Increased state support for sector partnerships is largely attributable to WIOA. WIOA, which became effective two years ago, requires sector partnerships as a local workforce activity, and requires states to support those local efforts. While state support has increased substantially under WIOA, there is still considerable room for further progress. In 2018, states must modify their WIOA state plans, which will present another opportunity for states to establish policies to support sector partnerships. As Congress reauthorizes other federal acts – including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and the Higher Education Act – there may be more opportunities to include sector partnerships as a key strategy to engage employers in skill development. 

States without a policy in place can use National Skills Coalition’s Sector Partnership Policy Toolkit to establish one. Many of the states with a policy already in place can also use the Toolkit to further expand state support for local sector partnerships.