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Sector Partnerships + Career Pathways = A Healthy Local Economy

By Sandy Supianoski

There’s a lot of jargon in education … just like there’s jargon in every industry. Because education is vitally important to nearly every industry (e.g. healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, finance, communications, agriculture and more), I’d like to review some of the current lingo and talk about what it really means for our local communities.

Specifically, let’s examine sector partnerships, skilled workforce, skills gaps, advanced manufacturing, and career pathways.

Sector Partnerships involve getting specific industry representatives sitting around the same table to focus on their own workforce needs. For the last several years, Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) has heard local employers talk about the lack of a skilled workforce. Very simply, this means the employers either have or anticipate having jobs that require specific skills, and there are not enough skilled workers in the local workforce to fill those positions. When there are people who need jobs but don’t have the skills or training required, that’s known as a skills gap.

Sector partnerships engage many employers in finding ways to meet current and future workforce needs. To be most successful, those conversations must also include educators, economic developers, career counselors, and employment service agencies, … all of whom can play an important role in meeting the needs of the employers.

A key goal of sector partnerships is the development of a career pathway that will create and/or enhance the current talent pipeline to close the skills gap and meet the needs of local employers and workers.

What’s a career pathway? It’s a graphic illustration that identifies specific steps an individual can take to qualify for employment in an industry, and then move up the career ladder in that industry. Career pathways identify the education, certifications and experience required at each level; specific skills and competencies required at each level; and job titles and wage ranges associated with each level.

IVCCD has organized four sector partnerships so far: advanced manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, and construction (still in the planning process). The overall goal is the same for each, but action steps vary based on the industry. (Advanced manufacturing involves manufacturing with state-of-the-art technologies and a highly trained workforce … in other words, it’s not your grandfather’s “factory job.”)

Our sector partnerships have built career pathway maps that provide a visual understanding of the path an individual can take to advance in each industry. These maps are shared with K-12 and college faculty and staff, school and workforce counselors, high school students and parents, and unemployed and underemployed individuals. Since “a picture is worth a thousand words,” I invite you to check out our advanced manufacturing career pathway at

What comes after career pathway maps are available? Many highly successful initiatives have been conducted as a result of the sector partnership meetings. But that’s probably the subject of another editorial …

I invite anyone who would like more information to contact me.

Sandy Supianoski is the Employer Relations Supervisor for Iowa Valley Continuing Education.

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