Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lessons Learned from Workforce Innovations

As the North Star Alliance Industry Liaison, I participated in the 7th WIRED Academy held in Washington, DC last week. WIRED stands for Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development and is the federal grant that helped establish the North Star Alliance. Their are 39 total regions that have received these grants over three generations. Over the last three and a half year the North Star Alliance has worked hard to bring togther workforce and economic development for the marine trades and composites industry. We have developed many strong partnerships including education (Maine Advanced Technology Center, Marine Systems Training Center, The Landing School, and the Boat School), industry associations (Maine Composites Alliance and Maine Marine Trades Association), and with field staff in economic development and business services (SBDC and DECD). Though, I learned about innovations from some of the other regions that seem to be working even better.

For instance, the Metro Denver Wired region integrated their workforce and economic development professionals at the beginning of the grant. They worked side by side out of the same office and this allowed them to establish very efficient business services for industry. In addition, the decision was made to have liaisons work directly with each specific industry, and all training development was industry led.

A second example comes from Mississippi. To create sustainability this region has created a Steering Committee that has agreed to live on after WIRED is over. This committe includes each major industry, each level of Education (HS, Community College, and 4-year), Economic Development, and the Workforce System. It is the charge of this committee to the lessons from WIRED alive and continue developing these partnership for Mississippi.

Finally, two other important items were developed because of this WIRED Academy. First, 33 or the 39 regions created very informative posters of their regions' successes. You can find all of the posters here. In addition, a white paper was created to be used in educating legislators and others on what we have learned from the WIRED experience. Download the two page paper here.

To quote the white paper, "To build the next generation of prosperity, we need workforce innovation: the integration of education, workforce development and economic development." Through the WIRED project the 39 regions have learned how to connect, how to leverage resources, how to measure outcomes, and how to break boundaries down.


bizdirector said...

Great post on the WIRED Academy. From your post, I learned about some of the other WIRED regions around the country, and what they are doing.

I like the white paper to educate legislators (and hopefully, other policy makers).

I think WIRED has been a positive step forward in efforts to unite economic and workforce development.

Kudos to you in your continued efforts here in Maine. You've been a valued colleague and an example of the positive effect that WIRED has had here in Central/Western Maine, particularly in connecting key people, and developing some positive opportunities with composites.

CSLibby said...

As program manager for Maine's WIRE grant i.e. Maine's North Star Alliance Initiative, I am pleased for the favorable recognition. I wish to comment however on a few major omissions in the partnership reference. The Maine Department of Labor has been the state agency driving force behind the work of the NSAI grant. Though the NSAI partnership emcompasses a broad array of stakeholders who have provided guidance, input, in-kind and leveraged match, MDOL and its experienced staff have been front and center in the development of this workforce initiative. Of course I would be remiss not to note the governor's support without which Maine would not have been awarded the grant. Thank you again for the supportive note and please check out the grant's website at