Sector Strategies

Since the 1990s, when sector initiatives were few and far between, the Economic Opportunities Program’s Workforce Strategies Initiative has been investigating sectoral employment development approaches. We started by leading research that defined the approach, and today the sector approach is widely accepted among policymakers, investors, and workforce program leaders as good practice. Sector initiatives operate across the country and in many industries. Yet sector initiatives are challenging to create and sustain because labor markets are constantly evolving, and funding environments change dramatically over short periods of time. We continue our efforts to investigate sector approaches because we have seen, over many years of research, the positive effects the approach can have for low-income workers and businesses. In this section, visitors will find resources that define the sector approach, describe sector initiatives, document worker outcomes, and offer a variety of resources to those working in or supporting this field of practice.

Sector Strategy Defined

Workforce programs are part of a larger set of actors that influence a region’s labor market, and the resulting workforce outcomes are greatly influenced by how these other actors operate. Thus, we define a “sector strategy” as a systems approach to workforce development — typically on behalf of low-income individuals — that:

  • Targets a specific industry or cluster of occupations, developing a deep understanding of the interrelationships between business competitiveness and the workforce needs of the targeted industry;
  • Intervenes through a credible organization, or set of organizations, crafting workforce solutions tailored to that industry and its region;
  • Supports workers in improving their range of employment-related skills, improving their ability to compete for work opportunities of higher quality;
  • Meets the needs of employers, improving their ability to compete within the marketplace; and
  • Creates lasting change in the labor market system to the benefit of both workers and employers.

Some sector strategies promote access to jobs by removing barriers to getting good jobs or to moving up into better jobs. But it is important to note that when job quality is poor with respect to wages, scheduling, benefits, working conditions, etc., sector strategies should focus on improving the quality of jobs.