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Workforce development


Workforce development, an American approach to economic development, attempts to enhance a region's economic stability and prosperity by focusing on people rather than businesses. It essentially develops a human-resources strategy. Work-force development has evolved from a problem-focused approach, addressing issues such as low-skilled workers or the need for more employees in a particular industry, to a holistic approach considering participants' many barriers and the overall needs of the region.
Traditional work-force development has been problem-focused. Economic development practitioners evaluated neighborhoods, cities, or states on the basis of perceived weaknesses in human-resource capacity. However, recent efforts view work-force development in a more positive light. Economic developers use work-force development as a way to increase equity among inhabitants of a region. Inner-city residents may not have access to equal education opportunities, and work-force development programs can increase their skill levels so they can compete with suburbanites for high-paying jobs.
Sector-based approaches consider the sectors, or industries, in a region that are in need of specific workplace skills. These strategies focus on the demand side of workplace development and consider the industries in which it is most likely that new employees will be hired. Sector-based programs may have higher entrance requirements than place-based strategies because their ultimate aim is to aid the sector at which they are targeted, not to increase the general hirability of the most disadvantaged residents.
Place-based approaches, which consider the supply side of the workplace (workers), are primarily focused on the characteristics of people in the region or community where the training program will be located. Place-based strategies often help participants gain initial access to the labor market while addressing other essential concerns to the region, such as housing development or English skills. In general, place-based approaches aim at training the unemployed workers and enhancing their skills for entering the labor market.
Another key part in workforce development's service for individuals is career advancement. This guidance on paths and barriers to advancement is especially relevant today, where the practice of internal labor markets is uncommon, particularly among women and minorities. In the past, advancement often took place in internal labor markets (ILMs) so promotions and upward mobility occurred within the same firm workers were hired in. "They promoted predictability, stability, and long-term skill development". ILMs no longer dominate the field of career advancement as a result of the dualization of labor markets. This term refers to the noticeable split in "primary sector" and "secondary sector jobs" where the former is recognized for high skills, wages, and stability while the latter is marked by the opposite. "Ongoing corporate restructuring has shifted risk of economic instability from firms onto workers and households, rendered opportunities for upward mobility within firms more opaque and elusive, and weakened institutions (i.e., unions) for worker voice and democratic decision making on the job". These recent challenges make the role of workforce development programs all the more valuable.