Leveraging Job Sector and Industry Growth

Harnessing the power of expanding job sectors and growing industries to support workers’ pathways to employment and self-sufficiency.

Why leverage industry and job sector growth?

In the United States there is a mismatch between the skills job seekers have and the skills employers need. Developing a workforce skilled in occupations that are growing and are projected to continue to grow will expand opportunities for workers, reduce unemployment, and improve the nation’s competitiveness. These circumstances present great opportunities for the human services, K-12 and post-secondary education, workforce development, and economic development sectors to work together to offer a range of services and supports to low-income youth and adults so that they can take advantage of opportunities that lead to long-term employment stability and economic mobility.


Examples of Growing Industries

Many of the occupations in growing industries are conducive to pathways to employment whereby workers can “earn as they learn” and acquire stackable credentials. Examples include construction and professional trade occupations, “green jobs”, and occupations in advanced industries and healthcare.


Advanced Industries- Advanced industries are those that employ high levels of research and design (R&D) and STEM workers (science, technology, engineering, and math). These industries provide the bulk of new inventions and products, while driving down consumer prices and spurring growth (Muro, Rothwell, Andes, Fikri, & Kulkarni, 2015).


These industries are hiring and expanding job growth, but finding it hard to fill vacancies. Wages are rising much faster than in non-advanced industries and other sectors of the economy. In fact, salaries in advanced industries are relatively high at all levels of education. Advanced industries’ strong orientation to technology, innovation, and skilled workers positions them in high-value, high-margin global markets and leads them to hire and train skilled workers—at all levels of education—and pay them well (Muro, et al., 2015).


Healthcare- It’s no secret that the healthcare sector is experiencing, and will continue to experience, incredible growth. The healthcare field is an excellent option for low-income workers to consider, not just because jobs will be abundant, but also because the field is conducive to career mobility through stackable credentials. Furthermore, the range of healthcare occupations is actually quite broad, ranging from nurse, to community health worker, to medical technician, and a variety of administrative jobs. Due to this range of occupations, the healthcare industry can offer opportunities to workers with varying degrees of home and family responsibilities.


Integrating the sector-driven approach with place-conscious and multi-generational approaches.

Job sector and industry growth often varies across places, so workforce engagement efforts must consider the projections for the geographic area to be served. Additionally, employment conditions of some of the fastest growing occupations, such as home care aide or tractor trailer driver, which often have variable hours and volatile schedules, may not be ideal for workers who are caregivers. A number of the fastest growing occupations do not pay sufficient wages to support a family and achieve economic mobility. Therefore, in addition to being a collaborative effort between multiple systems, workforce initiatives designed to leverage job sector and industry growth must also incorporate place-conscious and multi-generational approaches.



Muro, M., Rothwell, J., Ander, S., Fikri, K., and Kulkarni, S. (2015). America’s advanced industries: What they are, where they are, and why they matter. The Brookings Institute. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports2/2015/02/03-advanced-industries#/M10420

Spotlight on...

Los Angeles, California


Los Angeles’s Utility Pre-Craft Trainee Program (UPCT) offers a best practice model for entry-level workforce training in the green economy. The UPCT program was developed collaboratively by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 18. UPCT is an earn-while-you-learn, pre-apprenticeship program in which trainees work full-time weatherizing the homes of low-income utility customers while also learning other skills and preparing for the civil service exams and career opportunities in the utility. The UPCT program has received strong support from a broad coalition of environmentalists, low-income advocates, and labor, which sees this program as a central element of its ongoing campaign to both reduce the city’s carbon footprint and create good jobs for local workers.



The Bureau of Labor Statistics – Employment provides national totals of the number of employed people, as well as statistics on subjects such as occupational employment and wages, labor demand and turnover, and the dynamic state of the labor market. For example, the Employment Projections Program (EPP) develops information about the labor market for the nation as a whole for 10 years in the future and the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates for over 800 occupations for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. It also produces national occupational estimates for specific industries.


Internet Links for State and Local Employment Projections is a resource created by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Office of Workforce Investment. It includes direct links to all published industry and occupational projections for all states, including long-term and short-term statewide and local projections, and each state’s LMI website. This tool can be easily customized by the user, and is designed for the broadest possible audience, including state and local WIOA and other employment and training staff, economic development and strategic planners, educators and service providers, and others.


The Labor Market Information (LMI) Win-Win Network Community of Practice (WIN-WIN) is an excellent source for new and innovative workforce information sources, and for advice on using LMI to improve employment programs and policies. Community members include workforce information experts, producers and users.


Much of the work of the Workforce Strategies Initiative at the Aspen Institute has looked at sector-based and industry-specific approaches to workforce development. Its research has included: longitudinal studies to document outcomes of program participants; site-based research to identify core elements of sector practice; examining of models of collaboration; developing new methods for assessing outcomes that accrue to business customers of workforce services; and more.


Papers, Briefs, and Reports

Report Preview Summary: Encouraging Evidence on a Sector-Focused Advancement Strategy

    MDRC, June 2016


Skills in the States: Sector Partnership Policy

    Brooke DeRenzis and Bryan Wilson, National Skills Coalition, August 2015


Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways across the Transportation Industry

    U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Transportation, August 2015


Improving Jobs to Improve Care: The SEIU healthcare NW Training Partnership

    Vickie Choitz and Matt Helmer, Workforce Strategies Initiative, The Aspen Institute, March 2015


Skills and Innovation Strategies to Strengthen U.S. Manufacturing: Lessons from Germany

    Joseph Parilla, Jesus Leal Trujillo, and Alan Berube, The Brookings Institute, February 2015


Sectoral Strategies for Low-Income Workers: Lessons from the Field

    Maureen Conway, Amy Blair, Steven Dawson, and Linda Dworak-Muñoz, Workforce Strategies Initiative, The Aspen Institute, October 2007


Toolkits and Webinars

Evidence First: Sector-Focused Training That Meets the Needs of Job Seekers and Employers (Podcast)

    MDRC, February 2017

Labor Market Information Training Gateway: Learn about LMI and How to Translate Data into Decision-Making

    U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, April 2016

State Policies to Support Sector Partnerships (Webinar)

    National Skills Coalition, November 2015

Skills in the States: Sector Partnership Policy Toolkit

    Brooke DeRenzis and Bryan Wilson, National Skills Coalition, October 2015


Innovation in Action

Project HOPE in South Carolina is a sector-driven career pathway program that helps disadvantaged young people obtain healthcare industry recognized certificates and degrees, preparing them for careers in the allied health and long-term care fields. This statewide program, which is a collaborative effort across agencies, not only supports disadvantaged young people’s paths to employment and self-sufficiency, it also produces qualified workers who can fill high demand healthcare jobs and meet the labor force needs of their communities.


The Illinois Pathways' STEM Learning Exchanges is a state-wide public-private initiative that works to create partnerships between schools, industry, state government, and non-profits to better coordinate investments, resources, and planning in the high-demand STEM industry cluster. In addition, the initiative is designed to improve access for underrepresented populations in STEM fields, such as women, minorities, and low-income students. The initiative empowers students to explore their academic and career interests through local programs of study that feature a series of orientations and advanced courses across educational institutions that are paired with hands on learning experiences and industry credentialing opportunities. Each sector-based Learning Exchange is governed by a consortia of partners with a specific entity serving as a fiscal agent to receive public investment. Learning Exchanges are required to have a state-approved strategic plan and have a state designation, but they operate as independent, voluntary public-private networks using the Illinois Pathways Initiative Governance Model.


Pathways to Prosperity is Minnesota’s newest workforce initiative. In 2015, Minnesota’s governor and state legislature finalized a budget that will invest $1.72 million into this new initiative. With these funds, 33 programs across the state assist low-skill, low-wage adults in overcoming employment barriers and quickly developing the job skills they need to work in growing industries such as health care, advanced manufacturing, and information technology. The initiative is supported by local partnerships between workforce development and human services programs, Adult Basic Education, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.


Velocity is a public-private partnership and strategy for reorienting the Phoenix, AZ region’s economy toward advanced industries. The Velocity plan aims, in part, to increase STEM skills at all levels and connect workers to jobs in advanced industries. It calls for a sector-driven approach to training at the community-college level for middle-skill jobs, developed in conjunction with existing and emerging advanced industries in the region. It even intends to revamp the region’s STEM education at primary and secondary school levels and strengthen the region’s engineering program at the postsecondary level. Read Velocity: Accelerating Phoenix’s emergency as an innovation economy (The Avenue, Brookings Institute) 




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