November 30, 2008
Over the past 30 years, American workers have faced daunting challenges, including declines in real wages and dwindling upward mobility. Paths to advance within companies have deteriorated, leaving many low-skilled workers "stuck" indefinitely in low-wage jobs -- and swelling the ranks of the working poor. As opportunities for less-educated workers to access well-paying jobs grow scarce, it is clear that our nation requires new approaches to workforce development.In a departure from traditional strategies, some workforce organizations have begun to implement services and activities that focus on the needs of specific industry sectors. By identifying local sectors that lack workers -- which might range from health care to manufacturing to construction -- these organizations can help low-income workers acquire the specific skills they need to fill available positions. To explore the potential of this approach, P/PV launched the Sectoral Employment Initiative (SEI) in 1998, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. This final report relies on data gathered during interviews with staff members at the SEI organizations and other key players in the targeted sectors, site visits, reviews of program documentation, and baseline and follow-up interviews with program participants focusing on a range of outcomes, including employment, earnings, education, housing and household income. The report presents key findings and explores some of the challenges sectoral programs encountered.