community based workforce projects at United Way led to a research
effort of "what works" in communities across the nation in the wake
of welfare reform. It turned out that not much had been
working well for many years to improve the incomes of low skill
workers in public workforce programs. Moreover, the new
emphasis on "Work first" was not so new -- most public workforce
programs had been relying on a work-first approach for decades, that
is so because only a scant few participants in those programs (from
CETA through JTPA) were exposed to significant jobs training.
[See the Reader's Guide to Workforce Programs]
survey of workforce outcomes was conducted in conjunction with the
national focus on Welfare to Work. While many programs received much
praise, especially from those who stood to gain politically from
their success, a few projects stood out with extraordinary results.
These programs that worked well in terms of more consistent
workforce attachment and stronger earnings growth over the
subsequent five years following the first job were characterized by
an emphasis on finding a good job rather than "any" job and access
to post-secondary or occupational training suited to the job that
These results were
achieved in projects known as Sector Initiatives. There has been a
considerable effort to pilot these kinds of projects and to evaluate
their results. The sector initiative strategy seems particularly
promising as Indiana leaves a low and homogeneous skill set that
characterized "old" manufacturing, and transition to a more focused,
technology driven advanced manufacturing world where job applicants
better customized to job requirements are more likely to succeed
both for themselves and for their employers.
[See a Prospectus for Sector Initiatives in
Making it Work
Taking theory to practice takes a strong vision an and a sensitivity
to local conditions. Here is a short (unfinished) paper that
contains a conceptual diagram that helps with the vision part.
For the real deal, browse to one of our partner organizations that
is in the midst of bringing the vision to fruition.
[See Design for a Sector Initiative] Go to the partner's page and click on Workforce Inc.