IWIB Newsletter
Issue 1 2021
Editors Note
Mike Conley, IWIB Newsletter Editor
The IWIB Newsletter Staff is pleased to welcome a new feature to the newsletter for 2021, a note to the workforce system from Director Erin Guthrie of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The system was able to navigate unprecedented challenges in 2020. While all of those difficulties are not completely behind us we must be prepared for what lies ahead. As we continue to deal with the pandemic and the economic tumult it has engendered, we should be mindful of what comes after, and use the lessons we learned to make us better equipped to fulfill our mission. We present Director Guthrie’s message with thanks for her leadership and appreciation for her commitment to the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board.

--Mike Conley, Editor
IWIB newsletter
Directors Corner
DCEO Director-Erin Guthrie
Dear IWIB Members,
As we begin a new year, I want to thank you for your hard work in 2020 – a challenging year for many, especially the communities we aim to serve. Amid unprecedented challenges faced, our team at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), our local workforce agencies, and the many public and private sector partners we work with stood firm in our mission to deliver exceptional services for our communities throughout Illinois.
Under difficult circumstances facing many in our state and unprecedented rates of unemployment around the country – our work continued thanks to your tireless commitment, as well as to the clear, steady leadership by Governor JB Pritzker. Over the past 10 months, our administration worked diligently to address the public health impacts of COVID-19--paving the way for a safe, reopening of our state, and allowing our many employer partners to gradually reopen their doors and to return workforce trainees to the job site.
I’m proud that through these difficult times, DCEO’s Office of Employment and Training (OET), alongside you, state and local partners, successfully launched several new workforce initiatives that will play a key role in our economic recovery, including the launch of a new, comprehensive state hiring website, “Get Hired” and through sustained investments in training and apprenticeship programs to serve thousands of residents around our state.
A truly one-stop-shop for hiring opportunities available throughout the state--Get Hired features over 40,000 active job postings from companies representing a wide variety of industries all under one tent. The portal allows employers to connect with talent across the state, and workers to navigate job opportunities in real-time. Since the launch of "Get Hired last May, the State of Illinois has hosted over 487 virtual job fairs in 2020 –– with over 3,389 Illinoisans participating.
In addition to expanded hiring efforts, we continued to excel in increasing access to high-quality career training. This includes a record $16 million expansion of workforce training programs to bring unemployed residents into skills training for roles directly related to our collective response to COVID-19. And last year we reached new heights by expanding the apprenticeship program to serve hundreds of more residents in skills training that will lead to well-paying roles in high demand industries – from healthcare to transportation and logistics, to cybersecurity, and IT.
While Illinois much like the rest of our country continues to fight to restore the health of our communities and our economy, 2021 is sure to present its own unique challenges and opportunities. Fortunately, historic investments made last year will again help expand the reach of our workforce programs so we can serve more residents in need and provide supports that allow us to meet them where they are at in the current times and in our increasingly digital age.
Through the work of the IWIB and other partners, we are confident that we can continue to make progress in our work to not only level the playing field for the people of Illinois, but to continue fostering one of the most talented workforces in the nation that continues to attract companies large and small to invest in Illinois.
Erin Guthrie,
Director of DCEO
"Why I IWIB"
Tom Wendorf Journey to IWIB
My journey to the IWIB began with a comment from a DuPage County manufacturer published in the Chicago Tribune in 2010. It was the height of the great recession. Unemployment in DuPage County was over 10%. The writer said, “I have jobs in my factory right now. Why can’t I find anyone with the skills needed to hire them? Why are we not able to find employees?” I had just sold my business and retired. I decided I had the time to find out the answer to that question.

There were many steps along the way. I was a part of a nonpartisan community-based organization, DuPage United, whose membership included churches, mosques, a synagogue, and a couple of unions and colleges. DuPage United gave me access to hundreds of people and businesses to talk with to get a perspective on the lack of people with the right skills. This led me to hear about for the first time WorkNet DuPage, an American Job Center not far from me.

After two years of one on one discussions with businesses and individuals, I decided to start a nonprofit. Career “Connect Metro West was set up to find, train, and match suitable people to the available entry-level jobs running CNC and doing welding. To do this, I needed a partner that could do this training. I found that partner in Jane Adams Research Corporation (JARC). I also needed a place to do the training. Career Connect and JARC partnered with the Technology Center of DuPage to use their manufacturing training classrooms. We trained 96 people in 18 months. One was an African American veteran who was homeless and a bilateral calf amputee. 6 months after he got his first CNC job making over $20/hour, we were together. He came up to me, gave me a big hug, and said…..you saved my life. I knew I had done the right thing being involved in helping the underemployed, unemployed, and underserved get life-sustaining employment.

All along the way, I developed more relationships, experience, and knowledge of the workforce system. I was asked to join the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board as a business member in 2016 I found a workforce system facing big changes from the new July 2015 Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act (WIOA). This legislation envisioned a business-led demand-driven system with business sector career pathways that would better serve the needs of both the business community and those seeking employment. To do this required bringing the business community into the partnership with the public workforce system and community-based training. I decided that being an active member of the IWIB is where my background and leadership could be used to move toward positive change.

I learned that the Illinois Workforce System was a complex, multi-layered group of government agencies, Community Colleges, and community training providers that ideally would be part of a simple unified system that would get folks employed with the right skills that local businesses needed cost-effectively. I learned that the IWIB worked with the Dept of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) on policy, strategy, and recommendations for workforce policy. I then understood that the actual work of the workforce system was done by 24 (?) local Workforce Innovation Act (LWIA) centers. I decided if I wanted to really understand the workforce system, I needed to join the DuPage County Workforce Board to see how the work of the IWIB was implemented by the boots on the ground, the folks that actually did the work of workforce development.

I eventually realized that my participation made me a connector between the various partners of the complicated Illinois workforce system. My best role would be to be a strong voice for the business perspective at both the state level with IWIB and the local level with LWIA.
For me, this work is inspiring. I meet and work with many smart dedicated people. I work on difficult problems which I love to do. My wife says I work as hard now as I did when I had my business. The difference is I don’t get paid. Being a retired volunteer IWIB and LWIA board member was magical for me. It feels like all my varied experiences prepared me to effectively play this role. I have the freedom to identify and bridge gaps in understanding and action. The freedom to push back on the status quo and the freedom to speak truth to power. This is a satisfying place to be in my life. I wake up excited to face the challenges every day will bring.
December 2019 the board voted to create the Business Engagement Committee (BEC) to lead the important outreach to businesses. In January 2020 Tom Hacker and I were asked to be co-chairs of the BEC. We are well on our way to putting this piece of the puzzle in place. I am excited and energized to work with the many smart dedicated people that we have attracted to this effort. The BEC brings together 10 businesspeople and 5 public employees from all around the state of Illinois to share their experience and knowledge of business engagement. Our focus is to develop scalable engagement of the 1.2 million small (<500 employees) businesses. In this difficult deep recession brought on by the pandemic. The work of putting people back to work with businesses that are struggling for survival is a mission worth pursuing. We on the IWIB and the local area workforce development organizations are committed to doing the best we can to get this work done.
Business Engagement Committee
Business. Recruitment. Communication.
A few months ago in this space, the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board (IWIB) newsletter described the beginning efforts of the fledgling Business Engagement Committee (BEC) led by Tom Wendorf and Tom Hacker. The BEC has hit the ground running since that time. The committee has facilitated a productive beginning by challenging its members to be active participants. Foundationally, BEC seeks to craft an effective, sector-based strategy for ensuring Illinois business is aware and appreciative of the benefits brought to bear by the federal Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act (WIOA), the state board, and local workforce areas.

The committee is organized into three work groups—Business Partnership, Recruitment, and Communication—to ensure that all elements of the equation are in place. The committee’s work centers around developing relationships of trust with the business community in several key areas. The BEC seeks to build communication channels inside and outside the WIOA system, improve outcomes related to business sectors’ use of the system, encourage more participation from the private sector on the state board and local workforce boards, and strengthen partnerships with industry trade groups, among other objectives.

According to committee co-chair Wendorf, “Our work groups are doing really good things, based on three linked, baseline principles: Engagement starts with developing a relationship. Relationships start with communication that builds trust. And finally, who, how, and what we communicate.”

The Business Partnership work group looks at ways to collect and gather data about local and regional business outreach efforts and outcomes. The first step identified by the work group is to develop a baseline database of current business engagement efforts among all workforce partners. Then, those data sets will be expanded into a sustainable system for continuously improving business engagement efforts.

The Recruitment work group is charged with solving an age-old riddle associated with the state and local workforce boards. Both have struggled to execute the timely appointment of effective, engaged decision-makers in the business community. This participation can be as board members, or as conscripts to the committee structure, which does not require board membership. The work group’s charge is two-fold. It develops effective strategies to recruit new business members to state and local workforce boards and is building a repeatable onboarding process that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of all members—those representing business entities, the public sector, and non-governmental organizations.

The Communication work group is taking on the task of developing consistent, engaging messaging about the benefits of WIOA to local and regional businesses. The workforce system can provide the support businesses need to fulfill their talent needs, yet the private sector remains largely unaware of this resource. Training dollars, expertise, wage offsets, and other benefits are available. The Communication work group is brainstorming potential tag lines designed to induce businesses who are not familiar with WIOA to interact with one of their local workforce areas and explore its resources. Through the judicious use of public workforce dollars, businesses are able to mitigate the real costs and lost productivity associated with excessive turnover and a shortage of qualified, work-ready employees. The Communication work group has preliminarily targeted several industries and business sectors uniquely suited to Illinois. These include Information Technology, Professional and Business Services, Life Sciences and Healthcare, Transportation and Logistics, and Manufacturing, all of which exhibit strong demand and high wages across the state and each of its regions. Statewide priority targets include Agribusiness and Ag Tech, and Energy sectors. Regional priority targets include leisure and hospitality and construction. The work group expects to utilize free press through trade publications, business champions, and spokespersons from various industry trade groups.

The principle of sector strategies is woven through all of the Business Engagement Committee’s work. This proven method for closing the skills gap informs the efforts of all three work groups as they seek to expand the reach of WIOA programs and dollars. The goal from the business-facing side is to relieve the pain businesses are experiencing in finding qualified employees. This will be accomplished by training and placing previously unemployed, underskilled, and poorly resourced people into the workforce.
Success Story
Macon & DeWitt Counties- Workforce Investment Solutions
Workforce Investment Solutions is located in Decatur Illinois and serves Macon and DeWitt counties. LWIA #19 takes great pride in providing unique and innovative solutions for customers seeking employment services. We develop partnerships with local employers and agencies to better connect services the customer requires to meet employment goals. 

We also provide additional career pathways to assist with a diverse population. Through testing and assessments, Career Planners are able to customize specific services. Case management along with the employment specialist provide the extra “push” customers need to get that job!
Success Story
Madison County Employment and Training Department
Madison County Employment and Training Dept. has partnered with St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Dept. and Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville to serve 100 dislocated workers participating in an innovative digital badging workforce training program to prepare them for fast-growing occupations such as lab technician, chemical technician, and food science technician. 

The program was developed utilizing a gap analysis (Economic Modeling Services Inc. Analyst data) to identify areas of disconnect between the skills sought by regional employers versus the skills possessed by applicants for the job. Utilizing this data, employer interviews were conducted to better understand the desired skill level for each competency and opportunities for on-the-job-training upon completion of the credential. Each industry-aligned credential consists of 6-10 digital badges which reflect the specific competencies sought by employers for each target occupation.
Success Story
Workforce Center of Will County
Workforce Center of Will County (WCWC) is weathering the COVID pandemic by building out its existing infrastructure of virtual services that have been available for some time, including Facebook Live job search events and workshops and its online jobs board.
With those elements in place, Workforce Center partners met and strategized ways to make its online services even more robust beginning in April, soon after the pandemic began. In addition, its array of existing virtual career services, such as job search seminars, resume writing, the Microsoft suite of products, and networking software like LinkedIn, Workforce Center of Will County added classes in online interviewing remote work measures, and instruction in using videoconferencing programs like Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting which have become ubiquitous in the COVID universe.

In addition to those group training opportunities, WCWC is offering an increasing number of customized, individualized counseling services virtually as well, including those conducted by staff members who are Certified Professional Resume Writers and Certified Professional Career Coaches. Pick up printing services are now available for resumes and other job search-related documents, and the workforce center has developed a gallery on which job seekers can post their resumes, and offered help in creating a personal job search web site. E-signatures are being utilized in eligibility screening, rolling directly into a virtual meeting with a career specialist to begin planning occupational training.
One of the more innovative programs rolled out in response to the pandemic has been Drive-Thru Job Fairs, of which there were five between August and October, with more planned for this year once the weather allows.

WCWC’s Business Services Team has begun hosting webinars for area businesses to make them aware of WIOA programs and services.
It’s easy to bemoan the difficulties COVID has visited on local workforce areas, bur WCWC chooses to look at the situation more optimistically: thankful it had already begun laying the groundwork for more virtual interactions, and mindful of the value that will remain with those remote services after the pandemic has subsided.
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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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