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A message from Jack A. Litzenberg, senior program officer

 

In today’s evolving labor market, many low-income, low-skilled workers are hard pressed to find — and keep — living-wage jobs. Increasingly, even entry-level positions that once may have called for only basic skills now require specialized education and training.

Employers also are facing new challenges. Staying competitive in a global marketplace requires a skilled, experienced workforce. Yet, the pool of available workers may not offer industries such a tailored combination, which can result in economic stress on businesses and, ultimately, the communities in which they exist.

Sectoral employment programs are designed to address all these issues.

Jack A. LitzenbergJack A. LitzenbergSectoral programs help individuals prepare for careers in industries or “sectors” — such as health care and advanced manufacturing — that have been chosen specifically for their growth potential. Many also help workers address the personal issues that can limit their job prospects.

And because employers are involved in the programs’ design and launch, participants learn the specific skills that those industries need. As a result, they can be more productive on the job.

In turn, business costs related to staff training and turnover can be reduced. Companies can become more profitable and grow their market share, which can translate into new work and greater economic opportunities for local families.

Research is finding that the sectoral model can have real payoffs, with program graduates experiencing substantial gains in income, more consistent employment and improved career opportunities.

Sectoral programs also are helping reshape the country’s employment system. For example, many promote access for low-income workers to good-paying jobs by engaging businesses in the restructuring of core employment practices, such as recruitment, hiring, training, promotion and compensation.

Sectoral employment has experienced tremendous change and growth since it was formally identified in 1995. At that time, questions were raised about whether the concept was even understandable enough to win the attention of policymakers. Today, sectoral strategies are almost a given in workforce development policy discussions at both the state and federal levels.

We at the Mott Foundation believe that access to sustainable, living-wage jobs is vital to helping low-income workers create new lives for their families. The cover article in this issue of Mott Mosaic explores the role of sectoral employment in helping make that change a reality.

Jack Litzenberg

Jack A. Litzenberg

Senior Program Officer