This brief reviews relevant research about employer engagement, describes challenges in engaging employers, and synthesizes key elements that support business partnerships with workforce system programs. Partnership elements that may be used to strengthen a workforce agency’s capacity with employer engagement are summarized. Researchers, state and local evaluators, and workforce program staff may find this synthesized review helpful to increase the use of employer engagement strategies.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) emphasizes employer involvement in state and local workforce programming and planning. WIOA also includes a core performance indicator on the effectiveness in serving employers and establishes “new performance metrics related to employer engagement, encouragement that states and local areas adopt sector- or industry-based strategies, and changes to employer contribution requirements for customized training programs.”

Acknowledging an earlier quantitative evaluation that examined employer engagement strategies, Tuning in to Local Labor Markets: Findings from the Sectoral Employment Impact Study, this brief report reviews a series of evaluations, research, and case studies completed between 2015 and 2020. This review yields insights into what works and does not work with employer engagement in workforce development programs and summarizes the findings on the following topics:

  • Key elements of business/workforce system partnerships
  • Integral roles of employers in partnerships
  • Strategies that successful partnerships employ
  • Outcomes of partnerships
  • Activities and features of employer engagement
  • Employer engagement as a design element in evaluation