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Interview with Jack Mills on Sector Initiatives - John J. Heldrich ...

Interview with Jack Mills on Sector Initiatives - John J. Heldrich ...

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<str<strong>on</strong>g>Interview</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Mills</str<strong>on</strong>g>Director, Nati<strong>on</strong>al Network of <strong>Sector</strong> Partners[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the NTAR Leadership Center, helping state leadershelp adults <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> disabilities to employment and better ec<strong>on</strong>omic opportunities throughcollaborati<strong>on</strong>, innovati<strong>on</strong>, and change.[Laurie Harringt<strong>on</strong>] Welcome to Lead.State.Gov, a feature podcast of the NTAR LeadershipCenter. I'm your host, Laurie Harringt<strong>on</strong>. Today I'm speaking <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Mills</str<strong>on</strong>g>. <str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Mills</str<strong>on</strong>g> leadsthe Nati<strong>on</strong>al Network of <strong>Sector</strong> Partners, an initiative of the Insight Center for CommunityEc<strong>on</strong>omic Development. He guides NNSP's efforts to improve employment for low-incomeindividuals and other workers, and benefit the industries in which they work, through the use ofsector initiatives. He joined the Insight Center in 2005. <str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g> is a nati<strong>on</strong>ally recognized expert inthe field of workforce development <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> over 20 years of experience. He has authored and coauthoredpublicati<strong>on</strong>s including Building Skills, Increasing Ec<strong>on</strong>omic Vitality: A Handbook forState Policymakers, and Filling America's Jobs: How Businesses can Implement <strong>Sector</strong>Workforce Development Strategies for Jobs and Ec<strong>on</strong>omic Growth. Thanks for being <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> ustoday, <str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g>. Can you please describe the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Network of <strong>Sector</strong> Partners and describe itsmissi<strong>on</strong> for us?[<str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Mills</str<strong>on</strong>g>] Well, the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Network of <strong>Sector</strong> Partners is an 11-year-old initiative of theInsight Center for Community Ec<strong>on</strong>omic Development. We are a member organizati<strong>on</strong>. Am<strong>on</strong>gour members, <strong>on</strong>e group is made up of close to 400 partners in sector initiatives, and am<strong>on</strong>gthem there are about 100 that work in the healthcare industry, about 100 that work in themanufacturing industry, significant numbers in three other industries -- c<strong>on</strong>structi<strong>on</strong>, energy, andutilities -- and informati<strong>on</strong> technology, and the balance are in 13 additi<strong>on</strong>al industry sectors. Sothat's the first group. The sec<strong>on</strong>d group of our members is made up of those who support sectorinitiatives, as an example, policymakers, but also others. Now, in terms of our missi<strong>on</strong>, ourmissi<strong>on</strong> is for all people to have jobs that provide ec<strong>on</strong>omic security in vibrant, regi<strong>on</strong>alec<strong>on</strong>omies where key industries are prosperous. Our goals in terms of accomplishing thatmissi<strong>on</strong> reflect the ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>s we are in. They include three: first of all, increasingaccess to good jobs and career paths, and sec<strong>on</strong>dly, improving job quality, and thirdly, creatinggood jobs. And as you might imagine, we work <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> our member sector initiatives and themembers who are policymakers, et cetera, to accomplish our missi<strong>on</strong> and those goals.[Laurie Harringt<strong>on</strong>] Can you talk a little bit about why you think industry sector-basedworkforce development is an effective way of improving employment and ec<strong>on</strong>omicopportunities for disadvantaged populati<strong>on</strong>s?[<str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Mills</str<strong>on</strong>g>] When we look at the effectiveness of workforce development, the important thingfrom a policy point of view, but also from a learning point of view <strong>on</strong> the ground am<strong>on</strong>gworkforce development practiti<strong>on</strong>ers, is to try to be evidence-based. This idea that we can learnfrom the evidence of our work is so important. You know, there was a recent random assignmentstudy, kind of the gold standard of evaluati<strong>on</strong>s, and they evaluated mature sector initiatives, threemature sector initiatives, and looked at over 1,000 people who received services from those three1


sector initiatives. The point of the random assignment evaluati<strong>on</strong> is that there is a c<strong>on</strong>trol group,and again, 1,000 people, very similar to those who received the services from the sectorinitiatives; however, they could do anything in terms of getting a job and getting a good job,except they could not use the services of these sector initiatives. And what we know from this isthat the sector initiatives produced results that were much better, 18 percent better earnings, justas an example. And the folks I'm talking about -- you know, you use the word "disadvantaged"just to say something about this group, low-income individuals, significant porti<strong>on</strong>s <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g>criminal records, large numbers were single parents who by and large had low educati<strong>on</strong>alattainment. People who, <strong>on</strong> their own, would have a tough time getting a good job, and as I say,18 percent better results for those folks produced by the sector initiatives.The thing is, through, that that's <strong>on</strong>ly half the story because what we get also, from surveys ofemployers -- and I'm thinking about surveys in Massachusetts and also in Pennsylvania -- arethat sector initiatives also produce tremendous benefits for employers. You know, inPennsylvania, 84 percent of the employers, and there were -- I can't remember the number -- butmany, many employers surveyed, 84 percent said that the sector initiatives improved theirproductivity. Our organizati<strong>on</strong>, over the past year, interviewed 60 employers who are eithermanufacturers or healthcare employers, and the story we got c<strong>on</strong>sistently was this same idea thatsector initiatives are producing tremendous benefits.You ask the questi<strong>on</strong> why? There's a variety of reas<strong>on</strong>s. This is the secret sauce of sectorinitiatives. Let me hit some high notes. You know first of all, sector initiatives focused <strong>on</strong> ourregi<strong>on</strong>al labor market, that is where employers hire. So they can really meet employers' needsrather than being bounded by jurisdicti<strong>on</strong>al or other kinds of boundaries. They develop a deepunderstanding of the needs of a key industry, and in particular, an industry whose structuremakes it possible to reach <strong>on</strong>e of the three goals I menti<strong>on</strong>ed: increased access to good jobs,improved job quality, or job creati<strong>on</strong>. The sector initiatives developed, also, a deepunderstanding of the needs of the workforce, jobseekers and employees both, including the assetspeople bring and also the challenges they face. You know from that work in design -- researchand design, if you will -- then comes the operati<strong>on</strong>al phase. And there's coordinati<strong>on</strong> of services,coordinati<strong>on</strong> of funding, making the barriers for workers and for employers go away to the extentpossible. There is improvement of services, so that they are really resp<strong>on</strong>sive both to the needs ofthe industry and to workers. There's adaptability. The three sector initiatives in the randomassignment study I menti<strong>on</strong>ed, they said that their ability to adapt as the ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>schanged over the course of the past several years during the time of the evaluati<strong>on</strong>, that wasreally crucial to them. But of course, to adapt you have to know, and therefore those early steps,which I talked about, are important.<strong>Sector</strong> initiatives also do <strong>on</strong>e other thing. In additi<strong>on</strong> to producing the programmatic benefits forjobseekers and workers and employers, they also produce systems change. You know, the idea ofsector initiatives is that you use what you have developed in terms of relati<strong>on</strong>ships and in termsof proofs of c<strong>on</strong>cept and a variety of other things that you gain by doing the work to make largerchanges than just the benefits of those who are directly involved. And those changes, they're inthree areas. So changes in the way that services are coordinated because if you think of thevariety of needs of employers and workers in an industry, you have to imagine that it's a hub and2


spoke system <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> a coordinating entity in the center, and a variety of partners providing therange of services that the industry needs because those needs are complex. And then movingfrom that hub and spoke system and the way that services are coordinated, improving theservices themselves, so that the service is really resp<strong>on</strong>sive to and meet employer and workerneeds. In additi<strong>on</strong> to that, changes in employer practices. You know, in the disability community,we have a lot of tools. We have reas<strong>on</strong>able accommodati<strong>on</strong>. We have job carving. We have awhole variety of things where it's not about changing the individual; it's about changing thepractices of the employer. And so sector initiatives similarly think broadly about industrypractices, looking for the places where there is a win/win for employers and for workers. Andyou can see this in a wide range of areas, but it certainly applies to people who have disabilities.And then the third area is, of course, policy, and the things that sector initiatives do can be fodderfor the mill of changing policy. Of course, sector initiatives can also educate policymakers. Sothose are some of the things that are part of the secret sauce of sector initiatives. Really, it takes agreat deal of expertise and primarily moving toward a relati<strong>on</strong>ship <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> employers and <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g>workers rather than just a transacti<strong>on</strong>al approach. And for that relati<strong>on</strong>ship, there is a deepimportance of understanding employers' needs and understanding jobseekers and workers' needs.[Laurie Harringt<strong>on</strong>] Can you give us an example of a sector-based initiative that you think ishaving an impact, particularly <strong>on</strong>e that is specifically having an impact <strong>on</strong> the employment ofpeople <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> disabilities?[<str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Mills</str<strong>on</strong>g>] You know, I love to talk about Rubic<strong>on</strong> Programs in the Bay Area. Good friends ofmine have worked there in the past, c<strong>on</strong>tinue to work their now, and they do great work. Youknow, Rubic<strong>on</strong> focuses <strong>on</strong> high-growth industries in the Bay Area and am<strong>on</strong>g other things theydo because they provide a broad range of services. They provide employment services to folkswho have psychiatric disabilities, and you know, this is <strong>on</strong>e of several services that they provideso that they can meet the needs of folks <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> psychiatric disabilities in a variety of ways. Butwhen it comes to the employment side of things, meeting the needs of those high-growthindustries, they work <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> a range of people, including people who have psychiatric disabilities,to move them into good jobs. So that's <strong>on</strong>e example. You know, it's interesting. The Departmentof Labor, just to menti<strong>on</strong> another example, gave an h<strong>on</strong>orable menti<strong>on</strong> to something, "TheThreshold Project" of the Indianapolis Private Industry Council some years ago. So theseservices by sector initiatives focused <strong>on</strong> particular industries, and at the same time meeting theneeds of people <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> disabilities, it's not new. You know, I want to go <strong>on</strong> to say something. Youknow, our workforce is increasingly maturing. I guess that's the right word. I have to apply it tomyself. And <strong>on</strong>e of the things we know is that people, as they get older, lose some physicalcapacity, so the boundary line between those who have disabilities and other workersincreasingly is getting a little bit fuzzy. And so employers that are learning from sector initiativesthat meet the needs of people <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> disabilities, they are finding that they are applying universaldesign or use of software that can be voice activated or the whole range of kind ofaccommodati<strong>on</strong>s that we have thought previously as being applicable to people who have adisability. Well, those accommodati<strong>on</strong>s are meeting the needs of folks who -- you know, whosebodies aren’t working as well as they used to. So I think we're seeing the great benefit of theseservices and techniques that meet the needs of people <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> disabilities applied much moregenerally.3


[Laurie Harringt<strong>on</strong>] Thanks, <str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g>, for speaking <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> us today. I've been speaking <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Jack</str<strong>on</strong>g><str<strong>on</strong>g>Mills</str<strong>on</strong>g>, the Director of the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Network of <strong>Sector</strong> Partners. This is Laurie Harringt<strong>on</strong> forLead.State.Gov <str<strong>on</strong>g>with</str<strong>on</strong>g> the NTAR Leadership Center. For more informati<strong>on</strong> about the NTARleadership center and its research activities visit www.ntarcenter.org.July 20104

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