What we mean by "sector"

Sector initiatives are industry-specific workforce development approaches. AspenWSI has defined a sector approach as a systems approach to workforce development, typically on behalf of low-income individuals, that:

  1. Targets a specific industry or cluster of occupations;

  2. Intervenes through a credible organization, or set of organizations, crafting workforce solutions tailored to that industry and its region;

  3. Supports workers in improving their range of employment-related skills and ability to compete for work opportunities of higher quality;

  4. Meets the needs of employers; and

  5. Creates lasting change in the labor market system
Sector strategies promote systemic change that cultivates a win-win environment by restructuring internal and external educational opportunities, employment and business practices, and public policies to achieve changes beneficial to employers, low-wage workers, and low-income job seekers. Leaders in the field use a variety of strategies tailored to the regional economy, industry sectors and worker populations.

Within the sector field, there are two basic types of approaches. One approach involves helping workers move up into better jobs by removing the barriers and skills gaps that impede workers from getting those jobs. Another approach aims to improve the quality of bad or low-wage jobs within sectors with poor job quality such as the restaurant or retail industries. Within both of these strategies, sector leaders may offer training and skills development for specific industries and occupations, conduct research about the industry or working conditions, convene businesses to discuss their challenges, advocate for public policy changes, help workers organize or provide other types of services designed to meet the needs of workers and businesses. These initiatives often result in companies that have a more skilled workforce, while workers obtain improved income, benefits and employment opportunities.