Today, NSC released a new brief, Partnering Up: how industry partnerships can bring work-based learning to scale. The report outlines the importance of local, industry-driven partnerships between workforce, education, and human services systems and stakeholders to scale work-based learning strategies like apprenticeship.
Work-based learning programs can address business demand for workers and workers’ skills needs. For small- and medium-sized companies, however, there are often challenges to starting or running these programs. Businesses and communities across the country master these challenges by working together in industry or sector partnerships that bring together multiple employers in a targeted industry with the workforce, education and human service systems to aggregate skills demands across firms and identify training and employment strategies that meet those shared needs.
These partnerships address several barriers businesses face in expanding apprenticeship. Among other things, partnerships:
- Foster and create a community of business leaders engaged in a common goal of upskilling a local workforce in a strategic way that benefits the broader community;
- Help businesses work together to design curriculum and benchmarks of the on-the-job component of a program or circulate best practices as well as training front-line workers and managers to aid their provision of mentoring or training.
- Link businesses with available subsidies, tax credits, and other incentives available to companies starting or expanding programs to ease financial barriers, particularly for small firms and for companies hiring workers with barriers to employment;
- Recruit participants for the work-based learning programs, particularly individuals receiving additional workforce and human services, and identify pre-employment or pre-apprenticeship training needs, access integrated education and training that can ensure success in later work-based learning pathways and leverage the spectrum of training options available under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
- Connect to and provide subsidies for transportation, child care services and other support services that ensure the broadest pipeline of workers not only have access to work-based learning but succeed in these programs; and
- Provide tools, clothing, and other required items workers need to start employment.
- Tailor training, support, and employment opportunities to the region in which businesses operate – both in response to local demand and as an outgrowth of local relationships.
Groups like the Healthcare Industry Partnership in metro Atlanta, Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center Training (OMIC Training) in Portland Oregon, UpSkill Houston in Texas, and the Advancing Manufacturing Partnership in Indiana all bring together businesses, community organizations, labor partners, policy makers and representatives from the workforce, education and human services systems to support workforce development and work-based learning.
To bring partnerships like those featured in the brief to scale, the report makes several recommendations for federal and state policy makers:
- Target Technical Skills Training Grant program funds to industry partnerships to expand work-based learning, consistent with the PARTNERS Act
- Provide federal support for state investment in local, industry-driven partnerships with a focus on expanding work-based learning
- Integrate industry and sector partnerships into upcoming reauthorizations of education and safety net programs
- Utilize state sector partnership policies to expand work-based learning
- Leverage WIOA planning to integrate work-based learning into state sector partnership policies
- Ensure that sector partnerships’ work-based learning priorities align with and leverage other state training efforts across workforce, education and human services agencies