Resources & Publications

Connecting to Employers

April 21, 2014

Employers play a central role in hiring, training and advancing entry-level and low-wage workers.  Research suggests that employers make substantial investments in training, but most of this investment is directed at more educated and experienced employees.

Employers can contribute to upgrading the education and skills of less skilled workers by helping to build pathways to college and careers. They can work with community colleges and other partners to identify the skills needed for jobs, review curriculum, define credentials and map requirements for advancement.  Employers also can provide internships, training, tuition reimbursement for approved courses at colleges or other providers, and apprenticeship opportunities that combine work and learning.  In addition, labor unions have an important role in working with employers to identify skill needs, design apprenticeship and training opportunities and mentor new employees.

Some features of promising state approaches to connect strategically with employers are:

  • Creating regional, sector-based partnerships among community colleges, employers, business associations and community organizations;
  • Using state workforce information experts to analyze labor markets and identify promising sectors and occupations;
  • Working with employers to expand opportunities for integrating work and learning;
  • Ensuring that employer-focused training programs have strong connections to state and local basic skills and postsecondary programs; and
  • Cultivating business champions to advocate for improved access to basic skills and postsecondary programs leading to college and career pathways.

National Resources for State Policy Makers

Targeting Industries, Training Workers and Improving Opportunities.
Anne Roder, Carol Clymer and Laura Wyckoff. Public/Private Ventures (2008).

This is the final report of the Sectoral Employment Initiative, one of the first national initiatives to focus on expanding job opportunities for low-income individuals in vibrant industries.

Sectoral Strategies for Low-Income Workers:  Lessons from the Field.
Maureen Conway, Amy Blair, Steven L. Dawson, and Linda Dworak-Munoz. Workforce Strategies Initiative, The Aspen Institute (2007).

This report synthesizes examples and lessons learned from a decade or more of experience with sectoral strategies that target specific industries and improve job opportunities for low-income workers.

State Sector Strategies:  Regional Solutions to Worker and Employer Needs.
Sarah Oldmixon. National Governors Association (2006).

This issue brief explains sector initiatives that promote the competitiveness of industries in a state and improve the employment prospects of low- and middle-income workers.

Wising Up:  How Government Can Partner with Business to Increase Skills and Advance Low-Wage Workers.
Amy-Ellen Duke, Karin Martinson and Julie Strawn. Center for Law and Social Policy (2006).

This report examines three models of partnerships between business and government that are used to train low-wage workers and help them advance. The three models are: incumbent worker and customized training programs; career ladders or pathways; and state skills certificates and panels.

Engaging Employers to Benefit Low-Income Job Seekers:  Lessons from the Jobs Initiative.
Judith Combes Taylor and Jerry Rubin. Jobs for the Future (2005).

This report highlights research on the attitudes and actions of employers regarding support for the advancement of entry-level, low-wage workers. The findings and policy recommendations are based on research conducted as part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jobs Initiative.

Building Effective Employer Relations.
Workforce Strategies Initiative, The Aspen Institute (2004).

This report provides insight into how community colleges and community organizations can structure effective relationships with employers and provide services that are valued by the private sector. 

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