Organizations that successfully carry out these strategies conduct a dizzying range of activities to achieve their mission. They coordinate or provide training, work closely with employers, study their local and sectoral economies and labor markets, and link workers with support services like childcare. They do this in an environment where they must constantly seek funds from a variety of sources, each of which has its own demands for accountability and reporting. These demands would challenge the most sophisticated organization. Achieving higher impact, both for the specific organizations and for the system as a whole, will require investments in capacity building, like the following:
- Invest in the adaptive capacity of organizations to learn, function, and innovate, developing the ability to effectively serve both workers and businesses. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jobs Initiative and the Aspen Institute’s Sectoral Employment Development Learning Project (SEDLP) are good examples of building the long-term capacity of workforce organizations to use outcome data to shape their work.
- Develop technical assistance capacity to help organizations in fostering intermediary functions. Public/Private Ventures’ Working Ventures program, a training series for workforce development professionals, has shown both the value of and the unmet demand for this type of service.
- Help develop the entrepreneurial skills and competencies of workforce development professionals, not only in meeting the needs of their customers, but also in running their organizations. National centers in higher education, vocational education, and community development have contributed to the professionalization of those fields, and a similar effort is needed in workforce development.
- Build the field by linking leading intermediaries into regional and national networks to foster innovation, provide peer learning, and develop a clearinghouse for innovative practice. Good examples include such efforts as the National Network of Sector Partners, which has created learning forums and a peer technical assistance fund for sector programs around the country, and the AFL-CIO’s Working for America Institute, which has successfully stimulated new labor/management partnerships and expanded existing partnerships to serve the interests of low-wage workers and businesses. These networks should distill and disseminate the lessons learned from decades of the nation’s investment in the military addressing training and career advancement needs of highly diverse populations.
- Build marketing and communications capacity of the organizations. Leaders and staff need to learn to speak the language of business and frame organization-appropriate messages that counter negative employer perceptions and therefore stimulate interest in partnerships.
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