SkillUp Washington’s 2016 Sector Skills Academy

In 2005, Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program launched the National Sector Academy, since then over 225 Marano Fellows have graduated from the program. The Academy provides opportunities for catalyzing and strengthening cross-system partnerships, further improving outcomes for low-income workers. Ultimately, the mission of the Sector Skills Academy is to improve the quantity, quality, and sustainability of sector efforts on the ground, such that greater progress can be made towards improving economic opportunities for lower-income individuals while supporting overall economic competitiveness.

SkillUp Washington’s second Sector Skills Academy was funded by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation and facilitated by the 2013 Marano Fellows and participants of the 2015 Aspen Institute Sector Skills train the trainer. The fellows represented organizations that received Workforce Investment Opportunity Acts, K-12, city and state workforce funds.

In 2016, twenty-three sector Fellows enrolled in the program and each participated in three separate three day retreats over a seven-month period.  While at the retreat, Fellows engaged in a 360-leadership evaluation; systems mapping; industry analysis; organizational self-assessments; and culminating capstone projects.

During the retreat, they worked together to develop capstone projects which were presented to a large audience of funders, policymakers and workforce development providers.The three projects included Young Adult Career Pathways in Transportation and Logistics, Retaining Women and People of Color in Registered Apprenticeships and Collaborative Employer Engagement.

Among many compelling findings, Fellows involved in the Young Adult and Career Pathways in Transportation and Logistics capstone project identified the need to build a case for private sector investments in Sector Employment Navigators who represent employer interests while supporting individual training needs of young adults. They proposed that this position could be supported through “blended funding” from industry, K-12, community colleges, the public sector and philanthropy as these systems are beneficiaries of this work.

Fellows noted that they shared and received many different types of workforce resources from their peers. There was a 4-fold increase in the exchange of resources between fellows from the beginning of the retreat to the end, jumping from 54 examples of doing so to 216 at the end of the program.

Another interesting observation included the number and type of direct referrals of clients and other fellow programs. There was a significant increase in direct client referrals, with 31% of Fellows participating in the beginning and over doubling at the end of the retreat at 77%.  The number and type of client referrals increased, often focusing on activities which had the potential to increase job seeker access to training, support services, job fairs campus and worksite tours and other career development activities. Many Fellows reported that they were less isolated in their jobs as a result of connections made through Sector Skills Academy.