Advancing Skills Programming Reach with Informed Partner Engagement Strategies

Coworkers at laptop

To address the U.S. talent gap crisis, organizations are investing in skills-based practices to provide an expedited and more equitable approach to fill talent pipelines. AIR has engaged in this work and has partnered with a Fortune 500 technology company to expand the reach of their public facing, no-cost skills-development program. 

AIR collaborated with the client’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team to provide technical assistance to its partners with the goal of broadening, expediting, and enhancing capacity for adoption of the robust public facing skills-development program. This client partners with organizations that work with populations that have historically been underrepresented in the technology industry and has relationships with organizations serving neurodivergent individuals and others with disabilities. 

Focusing on both non-profit organization (NPO) partners and CSR staff who collectively promote and implement the skills-development program with adult learners, the client fully committed to the successful enablement of partners.

AIR collaboratively guided the project and work was completed over 14 months in two phases. 

Phase 1: Discovery, Analysis, and Planning

To complete the discovery and analysis to inform recommendations and planning, a multipronged approach was used:

  • Lean process mapping was applied to document the current state of the partner engagement process. This mapping started from initial outreach to a prospective partner, through qualification, to formal partnership. Then, once a partner, onboarding to the skills-development program and resources, and ongoing partner and program supports.
  • Human-centered design sprints were conducted with NPO partners and CSR staff that supported those partners. The design sprints resulted in future state journey maps for partners and learner roadmaps for program participants.
  • Findings from discovery were analyzed and culminated in a formal Stakeholder Engagement, Communications, and Training Plan.

Applying its extensive expertise in the U.S. educational system, AIR completed a similar first phase of work in June of 2023 targeting U.S. schools and educators that support skills-development programs for students 13 to 18 years of age. That work also resulted in an engagement, communication and training plan for educator partners and client staff who support them.

Phase 2: Plan Implementation

AIR developed and implemented the following collateral for client partners:

  • Formalized partner and learner journey maps to guide partners and CSR staff through partner engagement, program implementation, and ongoing partner and learner support.
  • Program implementation toolkit that includes videos, quick reference guides, and one-pagers on: (1) program promotion and implementation; (2) how to stimulate learner interest and sustain engagement; (3) credential attainment; and (4) the enhanced learning and employment offerings made available to them.
  • Virtual cohort-based onboarding was designed and jointly piloted with new U.S. partners. This pilot was led by AIR and also served as a train-the-trainer model for client staff who supported the program.
  • An online Partner Community of Practice (CoP) plan and  six months of seed content were provided by AIR along with a guide to sustain the COP.
  • Evaluations aligned to the New World Kirkpatrick Model principles were created by AIR to measure reaction, learning, and behavior change of partners who participated in the pilot. 

AIR designed training for CSR staff to explain the new partner journey, onboarding, and tools and create awareness of how to utilize them with partners. This training helped staff recognize the value of resources to create efficiencies and assist in expanding staff capacity to focus on partner strategic program guidance. AIR also developed communication collateral and partner engagement tools for CSR staff to further support partner success.

AIR’s team for this project included experts with backgrounds in:

  • Partner engagement strategies;
  • Workforce development and NPO partnerships;
  • Skills-based practices;
  • Process optimization (Lean, human-centered design);
  • Communications and behavioral change;
  • Adult learning, distance learning, and instructional systems design; and
  • Program implementation and evaluation.
Catherine Baker-Inzitari
Managing Director
Christina Herzog
Principal TA Consultant