IWIB Newsletter
April 2021
Table of Contents:

  1. Why I IWIB - Board Member - John Rico
  2. Advantages of Hiring Autistic People
  3. Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project
  4. DCEO Visits - EDR 9
  5. Dynamic Blend of Training and Work Experience
  6. Disability Job Fair During Pandemic
  7. Employer Spotlight Presentations
  8. TDL Task Force Summary
  9. Apprenticeship Illinois
  10. Success Story - National Tube Supply
"Why I IWIB"
John Rico
Illinois Workforce Innovation Board co-chair John Rico is one of the most venerated members of IWIB. His service even pre-dates the name IWIB. John was originally appointed as a representative to what was then known as the Private Industrial Council (PIC) in 1994, as a representative for the Chicago Southland Cook County region, at a time when each region in Illinois had representation. With the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 1997, the PIC became IWIB, as Governor Jim Edgar appointed about 60 board members in 1998.

“I graduated to the new WIOA board when the PIC was dissolved,” says John. “So, I basically knew the ropes and what I was getting into as an IWIB member.” IWIB at the time stood for Illinois Workforce Investment Board; Innovation was swapped in for Investment in alignment with the amended federal workforce legislation that was passed several years ago.

Whatever the name, John’s service to workforce development is neither the beginning nor the end of his belief in the value of volunteerism. He has served in leadership positions for boards of directors of the YMCA, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and the Harold Washington Community College advisory board, among others. He continues his service to the P-20 Council for education concerns and has been chair of the council’s college and career readiness committee since 2009. In that position, he helped develop the framework of the Postsecondary Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act that continues to help guide workforce development efforts. The process of taking the PWR Act from concept to law took about seven years. If a fusion of enterprise and education and workforce development are beginning to emerge, it is based on John’s intentions. As he likes to say, “Workforce and education are welded at the hip!”

John launched his business manufacturing Rico computers in 1985 when the first clones of IBM personal computers arrived on the scene in Chicago. The company made its first sale of 2,000 computers to the Chicago Public Schools and it was off to the races for Rico Enterprises. Today, the business has expanded on its tech origins and branched into other fields of endeavor with the continued involvement of the Rico family. The company and Boingo own the Wi-Fi systems at O’Hare and Midway airports, for example.
John’s experience in the tech and manufacturing fields make him a natural for workforce development. He made his mark leveraging computers to add efficiency to the manufacturing process before launching his own business. It has always been John’s vision and ability to foresee future trends and developments that have guided his business success. He understood early on the value of converting undeveloped workers into valuable employees, which encouraged him to take on a project computerizing Cook County deeds into a searchable database. John involved Chicago Public Schools students, provided them the technical training they needed to take the deeds from microfiche to digital images, and completed the two-year contract in less than half the time. In 1997, this earn-and-learn model was years ahead of its time.

Everything that has made John Rico successful in business and in life is a product of his family background. He comes from Cabrini and is a proud product of Chicago Public Schools, where his mother became the first bilingual teacher in the state of Illinois. Mrs. Rico died as a result of COVID this past February. John was one of 11 children, and a born innovator and leader. From introducing gender equity to his school’s safety patrol while still in elementary school to playing with his siblings in a band organized by his mother to keep them out of trouble, to whiz kid status in manufacturing, to success in his own business, everything about John Rico has been leading edge. That family commitment has also been the foundation for Rico Enterprises, which is a company knit together by John’s family, his wife, his siblings, and his children, whom he insisted work somewhere else for five years before joining the family business. One of his primary motivations in launching his own firm was his desire to be able to spend a sufficient amount of time with his kids, which may have been impossible if he had followed the Fortune 500 career arc he was on at the time.

John played the trumpet in high school and college (he has a minor in music) and ran cross country, and he has carried both of those passions throughout his life. He has run four marathons and continues to run around four miles a day. A few years ago, at an IWIB meeting in Chicago, John electrified his fellow IWIB members with his deft guitar performance at the House of Blues. As a leader of the IWIB, John appreciates the value of the service each of the business members provides. “I understand the IWIB board members are the true influence behind the scenes, because of the words ‘in kind’,” said John. “That we do this for ‘free’ means that we are serious about giving back. The expertise each board member contributes is what makes the board work for the citizens of Illinois.”

One more achievement in John’s belt that he may or may not be proud of: This newsletter was his idea.
Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project
Help us celebrate World Autism Awareness Month! Each April we celebrate Autism Awareness Month and April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. It is a day that reminds us to spread kindness, awareness, and acceptance all year long.

The Autism Transition and Technical Assistance Project (ATTA) seeks to provide resources and support to provide an equitable experience for individuals with autism. ATTA supports the important stakeholders involved in assisting individuals with autism in their transition from high school to postsecondary education or employment.

  • Autism in the Workplace-Strategies to Support Individuals with ASD in the Workplace
  • Recording
  • Presentation
DCEO Visit
DCEO Visit East St. Louis
DCEO Visit East St. Louis City Hall (above)
DCEO Visit CDSS (below)
What a great couple of days EDR 9 spent with the team from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO): Julio Rodriguez - Deputy Director of the Office of Employment and Training, Jonathan McGee - Deputy Director of Regional Economic Development, Vanessa Uribe - Deputy Director of the Office of Minority Economic Empowerment, Diana Alfaro – Latino Business Development Manager with the Office Of Minority Economic Empowerment, Tracey Glenn - Southwest Regional Manager, Office of Regional Economic Development, & Bryan Ellis - Downstate Workforce Development Regional Manager. We truly appreciate the opportunity to engage with the team and showcase some of the great workforce and economic development projects made possible through DCEO funding.

The two-day tour of St. Clair and Madison Counties, conducted on April 8th & 9th, started with a visit to the new Belleville One-Stop. Next, the DCEO Team had the opportunity to visit with several Business Interruption Grant recipients as well as tour a few apprenticeship project sites and meet with several other businesses, non-profit organizations, and elected officials. Also, Chairman Mark Kern took the opportunity to discuss some of the major economic development projects underway in St. Clair County. Again, EDR 9 thanks DCEO for touring our region and looks forward to another visit soon!
DCEO Visit SIUE Digital Badging
DCEO Visit New Belleville One-Stop
DCEO Visit New Belleville One-Stop
DCEO Visit Terra Source Global
Dynamic Blend of Training and Work Experience
Lake County Workforce
Workforce Development qualifies individual jobseekers for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) training funds available through the U.S. Department of Labor. The goal is to help unemployed and underemployed individuals gain the skills necessary to compete in the current market. WIOA also provides funding for a paid work experience. Participants may be matched with a six-month internship that allows them to add practical experience to their resume.  

IT Expert System offers certification in technical and management programs. Its two sites in Schaumburg and Naperville are also testing centers. In 2020, it expanded its original package of two exams to cover 12 different exams in IT, medical, academic, and manufacturing fields. 
Since April 2020, Lake County Workforce Development has funded six individuals for a unique blend of training and work experience at IT Expert System. As participants enter the program, they share with a mentor their background, experience, expertise, and expectations. Participants can build skills in areas including programming, operating systems, documentation, reporting, database management, and web development depending on their career goals. Additionally, participants work with a mentor to complete specific projects at the organization related to his/her career goal. For example, one student has worked on a project to grow the testing center with new test service providers. Another student created a user training guide and documented the business strategy for the organization. The training and practical experience that all of the students are gaining at IT Expert Systems will launch them into the competitive field of information technology.
Disability Job Fair During Pandemic
Lake County Workforce
Five organizations partnered for a Job and Resources Fair for Individuals with Disabilities on September 16, 2020, at Hinkston Park in Waukegan. Due to the pandemic, the event followed CDC guidelines with social distancing being strictly enforced and masks had to be worn at all times. The event gave the option for attendees to drive through for information or walk up to exhibitors. 52 attendees were able to network with local employers and organizations at this event.
The event was co-sponsored by:
· Goodwill Great Lakes
· Illinois Department of Employment Security
· Illinois Division of Human Services
· Independence Center
· Lake County Workforce Development
· Waukegan Park District
· Waukegan Public Library
Employer Spotlight Presentations
Lake County Workforce
The Employer Spotlight presentations were initially created to allow young adults to hear from industry employers in the four main local sectors of healthcare, professional services, transportation & logistics, and manufacturing. Each presentation highlights industry trends, labor market information, and career paths. Employers present and provide an overview of their organizations, entry-level positions, training and benefits, career paths, and success stories. The first industry featured was healthcare and the spotlight employers were Children’s Dentistry Group and Advocate Aurora Health. The industry spotlight presentation was shared with local programs that serve young adults and was posted on the Job Center of Lake County’s YouTube channel so that job seekers of all ages can view it. The next industry to be featured will be Professional Services with spotlight employers are the Waukegan Park District and Consumers Credit Union. Subscribe to our YouTube channel, Job Center of Lake County IL, to see all the completed presentations.
TDL Task Force Summary
Illinois Workforce Innovation Board

“Increase the number of skilled workers in Illinois to support TDL industry growth and drive economic growth across the state by ensuring the State Workforce System is aware of current and projected business needs in order to better invest public resources.”

The TDL Task Force is undertaking the following activities:
  • looking at the current state of key industries in Illinois in regard to workforce issues
  • assessing current and projected occupational trends
  • updating the understanding of technical skills businesses need workers to possess now and in the near future
  • updating the understanding of the immediate and ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • determining the potential for recruiting workers from other sectors hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic

In keeping with the WIOA Unified State Plan’s strategies of strong business engagement, the Task Force is seeking input from Illinois companies via surveys and direct participation as Task Force members. If you are aware of a TDL-related company that might wish to provide input to, or possibly serve on the task force, please refer them to Michael.Baker@Illinois.gov.

Members of the task force will review the most current labor market data available augmented by the input from TDL businesses to identify workforce-related challenges and opportunities for TDL companies. The task force will issue a final report of findings and recommendations to the IWIB later this year.
Apprenticeship Illinois
State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity, and Innovation
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced the availability of $87.5 million in grant funds for State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity, and Innovation (SAEEI) grants to support Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs). Of the $87,500,000 in grants funds available for SAEEI, the Department intends to fund up to $40,000,000 to states that not only implement required Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, but also demonstrate their commitment to adopt, expand, and promote DEI efforts as a key statewide RAP strategy. DCEO has been awarded State Apprenticeship Expansion grants by the DOL under four previous rounds of funding to expand registered apprenticeships.  
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Office of Employment and Training (OET) is working with state workforce and education partners to develop a $4-6 million statewide grant application, in response to this funding opportunity to expand Registered Apprenticeship Programs in Illinois. Commerce proposes to utilize the USDOL apprenticeship grant funds to continue to expand registered apprenticeship programs while placing further emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategies. Illinois will need to leverage the existing workforce programs to support this effort. We have submitted the application as of April 26, 2021.

The funding notice requires a commitment to serve 500 to 750 new registered apprentices for awards of up to $4 to $6 million.
Job Fair In-A-Bag
Workforce Center of Will County
The Workforce Center of Will County (WCWC) will offer a Job Fair In-A Bag from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday starting April 1, 2021. The idea for the weekly event was sparked by a community organization that asked WCWC to provide a flier listing its services to be included in a bag at a future time.

“We thought it was a unique idea,” said Scott Kettman, Business Services/Special Projects Supervisor at the Workforce Services Division of Will County. “So we decided to do it.” Participants will each receive a bag containing job listings from Will County businesses and information about programs WCWC offers to aid in a job search. Attendees may pick up a bag and go.

“But they are more than welcome to stay and use our Resource Room for job searching or viewing our online job board,” said Kettman. “The job fair also gives us a chance to engage in person with job seekers.” Job seekers who have already put together a resume are encouraged to bring it in for review."

Our goal is to have resumes reviewed on the spot by a Certified Professional Resume Writer, but if traffic is heavy during the event, we will make arrangements to have it reviewed and provide feedback as soon as possible,” Kettman said. Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant said, “I am glad the Workforce Center continues to find creative opportunities to connect workers with jobs. The center continues to be a resource during the pandemic.”

The Workforce Center of Will County, 2400 Glenwood Ave., is home to the Workforce Services Division of Will County.  

Success Story
National Tube Supply
 DeStan Turner was enrolled into OAI’s Career Pathways program funded by Illinois' DCEO grant on March 5, 2018. He was a 20-Year-old man who graduated from Thorton HS with his Diploma and resided in Park Forest, Illinois with his family. He had some work experience at Walmart and at Amazon but he was looking for something more. Participating in the NIMS training through OAI allowed him to begin his career. 
He started at Prairie State College with 40hr forklift training and successfully obtained his forklift certification on March 16, 2018. Immediately after, DeStan began NIMS (National Institute of Metalworking Skills) training at PSC. This training offered DeStan two nationally recognized credentials: NIMS 1 - Job Planning, Benchwork, and Layout and NIMS 2 - Measurement, Materials, & Safety. He earned both credentials by June 4, 2018. He started his internship at National Tube Supply on June 4, 2018. He did so well National Tube and Supply wanted to hire him full-time and he accepted. He is currently still employed at National Tube and is a model employee. 
DeStan went from catching the bus to buying his first car. He went from living in his family home to his first apartment. He went from being a great big brother to welcoming his firstborn son -Kairo.
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Our mission: To celebrate the accomplishments of the workforce system and its clients, both employers, and job-seekers.
Our vision: To share ideas, best practices, and to fully actualize the federal and state workforce resources in order to promote economic development and transition targeted populations into meaningful careers.
Our goal: To highlight each local workforce area in Illinois and the unique regional approaches they take to workforce development, to shine a light on each business member of IWIB and contextualize their reasons for serving in this volunteer capacity, and to lift up the many inspiring stories from around the state of job seekers leveraging the workforce system.
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