Summarizes accomplishments and lessons learned from a multi-million dollar initiative in Wisconsin to invest in formal Industry Partnerships (IPs); the initiative engaged public, private, and philanthropic partners and provided industry-led training for over 6,000 workers.

“This is the summary report on the Wisconsin IP [Industry Partnership] initiative (2008–2012) which invested more than $6 million, in concert with the needs of dozens of participating employers, in the project of building skills of some 6,000 workers all across the state. The initiative began with a team of leaders from the public and private sectors attending the Sector Skills Academy conducted by the National Governors Association. Leveraging this knowledge, the state, led by [the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD)], engaged a…stakeholder group from across Wisconsin, including the Department of Commerce (since reorganized as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation), the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), Department of Public Instruction (DPI), University of Wisconsin System, private sector employers, key philanthropic organizations, and workforce and economic development entities from 2008–12. In addition to designing and directing grants for convening partnerships and using those partnerships to develop and deploy training, IP activities included state policy development encouraging and aligning strategies for employer engagement across multiple state agencies, professional development for field staff through academies and other opportunities for learning, and the establishment of a community of practice in the state for sharing practice and progress on IP work” (p.1).

“This report is intended to support interest and innovation by documenting key successes and lessons learned in the process of undertaking the state’s work in sector strategies” (p.2). The authors provide this summary in an attempt to “inform and contribute to the efficacy of new initiatives to improve training and skill development” (p.2).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Key observations from the Wisconsin IP Initiative include the following: • “Build a funding strategy for the long haul. Allocating public funds by competitive grant process always creates the risk of recipients using the funds for short-term courses and programming. Future grant programs should build in sustainability from the start, conditioning receipt of funds on a documented plan for sustaining the program. All partners, including training providers and the private sector, should have a role in ensuring the future of the partnership. The Wisconsin IP initiative had mixed sustainability outcomes. Some convening grants led to short-term employer engagements. Others fulfilled the goal of developing a viable partnership” (p.16). • “Greater flexibility on convener selection/location could support innovation and enhance sustainability. The Wisconsin IP initiative required a workforce development board [(WDB)] to serve as applicant, but allowed for a variety of conveners, including philanthropic organizations….This solution may have too narrowly restricted the pool of possible applicants, however. WDBs should be partners in all projects, but many other private and public conveners might be usefully developed” (p.16). • “[Invest] in better outcome data for both employer and worker perspectives on IP and training. Over the course of the IP investment, the state committed resources to training and field development. Funded projects were required to report specific measures on their grants….These data were useful, but for larger and ongoing investments, the reporting process and outcome measurement should be expanded” (p.17). • “Investment can strengthen relationship and connections between the state’s IP strategy and ongoing career pathway work. A final observation relates to the simultaneous innovation in Wisconsin in both IP and career pathway strategies. These two initiatives are both focused on securing better skills for workers that are more relevant in the labor market. IPs are focused on organizing firms in order to develop stronger signals on skill needs and stronger connections to training for incumbent workers. Career pathways are more focused on the instructional reform that makes it possible to move in and out of work and learning at technical colleges. As such these projects are two sides of the same coin” (p.18). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)