Evaluates a pilot sector-based approach to workforce and economic development in Colorado to meet the needs of local business and to maintain the state’s economic competitiveness.
“Sector strategies have emerged as a promising model for economic development, inspiring experimentation, research, and scholarship over the last decade. Colorado was one of many states to embrace sector partnerships as a model for workforce and economic development. Colorado’s adoption of sector strategies reflected its recognition that new approaches are needed to ensure that the state has a skilled workforce to meet the needs of local business and to maintain the state’s economic competitiveness. Beginning in 2008, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) and the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) partnered to pilot a sector-based approach to workforce and economic development…[N]ine grantees received three years of additional funding to implement the strategies developed through the planning grants, and to advance their respective sector initiatives. These sector partnerships in Colorado presented a new model to shift the focus and the process of economic development in the participating regions and industry sectors. The new paradigm was driven by business and required regional collaboration and partnerships intended to benefit all stakeholders. Over time, employers came to the table with public partners and worked together to achieve common goals…Partnerships shared the common goal of creating a more skilled workforce. Other goals included creating new career pathways in the targeted sectors, increasing capacity and opportunities for training, and streamlining workforce center procedures to better meet the changing needs of business” (p. 3). (Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

• “Align existing and new sector partnerships with other industry-focused efforts, such as the state’s Key Industry Networks (KINs); and affiliate with industry councils and Economic Development Corporations. • Build upon existing or create new state-level structures that can coordinate sector partnerships across industries, help to streamline and universalize processes, and engage in long-term planning efforts. • Explore the possibility of multi-region initiatives to better serve industry needs and respond to supply chain and workforce issues. • Identify and create a basic ROI [return-on-investment] model that can be refined by industry to quantify the impact of training on a company’s workforce, productivity, and profits. • Streamline WFC [workforce center] paperwork and processes and institute common statewide practices to improve service delivery to both job seekers and businesses. • Develop a network database enabling multiple WFCs to enter and update industry contact data, view and update training data, coordinate events, and eventually develop STEM tracking initiatives. • Establish industry pipelines by introducing primary and secondary students to careers in renewable energy, water treatment, and manufacturing occupations. • Institute soft skills training in middle and high schools to prepare the next generation of workers to be problem solvers, team players, and leaders. • Expand opportunities for trained incumbent workers to engage in turn-key training to reinforce what they have learned and further disseminate information/skills. • Include funds for evaluation in all new grants to monitor program implementation and assess performance. Require an evaluation design to be submitted along with the program proposal to ensure that evaluation is an integral part of all new initiatives up front” (p. 4). (Abstractor: Author)