Participants work with peers from a variety of organizations from across the region and hear from national experts in the field, engaging in facilitated discussions and exploring new strategic approaches in issue areas such as employer engagement, system change, strategic communications, strengthening influence networks, and other topics. The Academy provides opportunities for catalyzing and strengthening cross-system partnerships, further improving outcomes for low-income workers. Ultimately, the mission of the Sector Skills Academy is to improve the quantity, quality, and sustainability of sector efforts on the ground, such that greater progress can be made towards improving economic opportunities for lower-income individuals, while supporting overall economic competitiveness.
The sector field embodies a diverse mix of industry-specific approaches. Sector strategies that help workers gain the skills and education they need to obtain quality employment and career opportunities in a particular industry are now very common. Other types of sector strategies, such as those designed to improve the quality of bad jobs or low-wage occupations within a particular sector, are also taking root in more communities. Together, strategies that build ladders to better job opportunities and strategies that raise the floor for workers in low-wage jobs comprise a field that is bursting with innovation and impact.
To build on the momentum of this work and to strengthen, sustain and grow the sector field, the first Sector Skills Academy was initiated in June 2005. The Academy is facilitated and managed by the Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative (AspenWSI) and funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Since 2005, the Academy has graduated eight classes and nearly 225 Marano Fellows, named in honor of Cindy Marano, a trailblazer in the sectoral field and a key leader behind the design of the Academy.