IWIB Newsletter
June 2021 Issue 2 Vol 5
Table of Contents:

  1. Directors Corner- Brian Durham Illinois Community College Board
  2. Education to Employment Work-Based Learning Initiative
  3. Building Futures for Women in Male-Dominated Industries
  4. Creating Opportunities Through Partnership
  5. Leading Students to Careers in Career and Technical Education
  6. Recruiting and Educating High School Students
  7. Closing the Gaps - Illinois Works
  8. Through the Lens of a Career and Technical Education Instructor
  9. Success Story - Healthcare Career Pathway Training
Editor's Note
Mike Conley, IWIB Newsletter Editor
While no one would wish to go through an experience like the COVID again, the pandemic undeniably forced people in all walks of life to adopt nimble, flexible, innovative strategies for navigating our work and home lives with some degree of normalcy. As we collectively strive to analyze the impacts and consequences of the legislative and regulatory responses to the pandemic, both intended and unintended, we move forward with an understanding that the landscape around workforce development continues to shift beneath our feet. Because while COVID has taught us how to respond to rapid and unexpected--but temporary--change, its next lesson will challenge us to adapt to the more permanent, systemic weaknesses it has laid bare. Our purpose remains the same; its success hinges on the deftness of our reaction to a new and fluid set of circumstances.

With thanks for his leadership and appreciation for his commitment to the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board (IWIB), we feature this month a message from Dr. Brian Durham, Director of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), as he discusses the strategies and policies community colleges will employ to meet the evolving paradigms of workforce development.

--Mike Conley, Editor
IWIB newsletter

Director's Corner
Brian Durham Illinois Community College Board
Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted us to learn to work effectively in a remote format and to move with lightning speed to serve our students in some truly difficult conditions. As we now cautiously approach a post-pandemic world, I emerge inspired by the dedication and commitment of the hard-working professionals across the education and workforce systems.
During my long tenure at the ICCB, the one thing I have learned is that is it precisely during these most troubling and difficult times that education and workforce providers shine. For our part, at the height of the pandemic, the ICCB was able to release nearly $2 million dollars in funding for adult education providers, adjust expectations for programs and make similar allowances for community colleges. 
In turn, community colleges and adult education—Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) purchased laptops, hotspots, and instructional tools, in an effort to keep their students engaged. The Adult Education Professional Development Network was laser-focused on providing resources and helping programs and instructors adjust to the unique circumstances of COVID-19. Community colleges adjusted to a virtual environment, allowing for simulations and virtual experiences. Colleges and programs worked hard to stay open. Students continued to learn.  Residents continued to train for the workforce. More than once, these systems pivoted to meet the needs of their students. 
In part, this reflects the intimate connection that exists between adult education programs, the workforce system, and community colleges. As the third-largest community college system in the nation and the leading public workforce development trainer in the system, community colleges are, in many ways, the perfect partner in WIOA. Every community college in the state on the Education Training Provider list has programs that are eligible through the WIOA American Job Center system. Further, Illinois community colleges reach nearly 9500 unique employers in the system across the 48 colleges and 39 college districts in the state. 
Adult education serves as an important pathway into postsecondary education and training. Students can enter bridge programs or integrated education and training programs, combining adult education and community college credit career and technical education (CTE) coursework, on a career pathway that leads to industry-recognized/postsecondary credentials and meaningful employment. Over 138 bridge programs and 95 IET programs currently exist in the system, spanning fields as diverse as agriculture, food, natural resources, manufacturing, and human services, among others. 
The continued partnership across these three systems is an equity imperative. Seventy-seven percent of all undergraduate students enrolled annually in Illinois public higher education are enrolled in community colleges. Seventy-six percent of the minorities in Illinois public higher education are enrolled in community colleges. Minority students accounted for more than three-fourths of the individuals enrolled in Adult Education, with over 32,000 students served in adult education enrolled in English as a Second Language courses. Whether a student starts their educational journey at a community college or comes by way of adult education, or a WIOA program, they can choose from over 4000 credit CTE programs in the community college system (depending upon their location) ranging from cosmetology to welder to early childhood educator, and everything in between. 
In many instances, these connections—and the cooperation among these partners motivated students to persist during the pandemic and continue to reap the benefits of their education, to the greatest extent possible. This is particularly important when considering that 9 out of 10 of the state’s community college graduates live, work, pay taxes, and raise their families in Illinois, which is a considerable return on investment when a student ultimately graduates from a community college. In a soon-to-be-released economic impact study by the ICCB, the lifetime earnings for an individual completing an Associate in Applied Science or long-term certificate is nearly $600,000 more than someone not receiving a college credential.  
Through the combined efforts of adult education, the community college, and our other WIOA partners, more than one student was able to stay enrolled or keep training during the pandemic. As we look toward our “new normal,” we must work hard to preserve those partnerships that endured and emerged throughout the crisis.   
I encourage you to explore your local community college.
The Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) is the state coordinating organization for the Illinois Community College System. The ICCB has statutory responsibility for administering state and federal grants to community college districts and adult education providers and managing high school equivalency testing for Illinois. Illinois community colleges serve over 600,000 residents each year in credit, noncredit, and continuing education courses. Illinois is home to 48 colleges in 39 community college districts that provide high-quality, accessible, cost-effective educational opportunities to the entire state.
Education to Employment
Work-Based Learning Initiative
The components of nearly every successful initiative are likely to include partnership, collaboration, and a leveraging of the strengths of public and private participants. In DuPage County, a group of workforce partners are closing the manufacturing skills gap through a unique initiative, the Education to Industry Pipeline, that attempts to lay our career pathways for high school students in the region.

Organizers including the College of DuPage, county high schools, the local workforce area, the trade group Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA), the intermediary GPS Education Partners, and local businesses have combined their efforts to fulfill an ambitious vision: providing every student in DuPage County with access to work-based learning models that accelerate academic and experiential learning and provide multiple pathways while meeting the needs of local business.

The top line for the initiative takes into consideration individualized planning processes, instruction that focuses on careers, work-based learning opportunities, and core academic foundations, all of which feed into multiple career pathways through an internship, entry-level positions, semi-, and middle-skilled jobs, and finally advanced skilled jobs. The pathway can travel through the progress of stackable credentials, career and technical certificates and degrees, registered apprenticeships, or baccalaureate level programs, or some combination thereof.

The effort seeks to forestall some of the typical impediments to building successful pathways by truly adopting a regional approach in order to improve efficiency and provide support services schools and businesses need in order to assure the success of the collaboration. The intermediary GPSEd raises capacity and a long history of bridging the space between schools and businesses. The commitment and expertise of regional partners help support the sustainability of the model.

It was a partnership more than a year in the making, according to IWIB member Tom Wendorf, chair of the board’s Business Engagement Committee. “None of it works without the buy-in of businesses,” Wendorf said. “We’re fortunate to have the partnership of businesses who recognize that we can improve our success by strategically linking students to areas of need for businesses.” Ideally, that level of alignment of high-demand occupations with student interest will not only improve workforce outcomes for this generation but the next one as well. By expanding the talent pool, the initiative builds on itself by developing a group of future mentors.

The pilot of the program targeted local manufacturing businesses and included two school districts, six business partners, and eleven junior or senior level students. Some of the students want to go straight to the workforce, while others are targeting postsecondary degrees and credentials.

The next incarnation of the talent pipeline seeks to include additional school districts, grow business and student participation, and develop additional pathways in new sectors including information technology; transportation, distribution, and logistics; and health care, all while seeking additional funding sources that will contribute to the model’s long-term solvency.
Watch the corresponding video below.
Building Futures for Women in Male-Dominated Industries
Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT)
Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT) has been supporting, advocating, and training women in the Chicagoland area for the last 40 years. CWIT is driven by its mission to ensure that all women who want to work with their hands and earn a good living wage have equal access to information, training, and employment opportunities in their chosen industry.

The under-representation of women is particularly stark in skilled trades occupations, where women constitute less than 3% of a workforce that numbers over 220,000 in Illinois, despite federal legislation and regulations that prohibit gender discrimination in hiring, set goals for numbers of women working for federally financed contractors, and require the recruitment of women apprentices.

Led by tradeswomen, CWIT continues to work toward changing these statistics by providing support and education to tradeswomen; increasing training for women and girls to enter nontraditional jobs; providing technical assistance to employers, unions, and other tradeswomen groups; documenting trends in the nontraditional workplace; and advocating for improved policies and practices that support women’s access to nontraditional training and jobs, as well as success and safety on the job. CWIT offers a variety of free training programs that provide a clear pathway to high-wage careers in the Union Construction trades and welding/manufacturing industries.

Established in 1987, the Technical Opportunities Program (TOP) is a pre-apprenticeship program preparing women to compete for and succeed in construction apprenticeship programs and other related nontraditional occupations. CWIT offers a 12-week, 180-hour course, serving an average of 100 women annually.

Strong welding skills are sought after in many sectors of our economy. To ensure that women are qualified for and able to advance in these occupations, CWIT is partnering with the Jane Addams Resource Corporation to provide women with welding instruction, primarily geared toward preparing them for entry-level manufacturing jobs. The 12-week full-time training program provides successful graduates with OSHA 10 certification as well as American Welding Society credentials.

The National Center for Women’s Equity in Employment and Apprenticeships works to remove barriers and level the playing field for women in nontraditional occupations and support their advancement and leadership in these industries. These barriers include lack of career education and outreach from apprenticeship programs, childcare challenges, unreliable transportation, housing instability, domestic violence, inadequate on the job training during their apprenticeship due to gender discrimination, racism, ageism, isolation from being the only woman/woman of color on a job site, stereotypes about women’s work, lack of information about entry routes, sex-segregated Voc-Ed/WIOA, and disparate impact of selection criteria.

Around the country, tradeswomen’s organizations, apprenticeship programs, unions, contractors, and tradeswomen themselves are creating and implementing effective strategies for recruiting and retaining women in the trades. The CWIT is collecting these best practices to provide an in-depth look at the elements that make these strategies so effective. They have created briefs you can download, that cover a variety of topics that support success for women in trades. Topics include building equity for Black, Latina, and Afro-Latina women in construction, pregnancy, and maternity, how women’s committees and book clubs can be a key to recruiting and retaining women apprentices, preventing and addressing sexual harassment, women-only pre-apprenticeship programs, and ways to be a male ally. You can access the fourteen Best Practices Briefs here.
Creating Opportunities Through Partnership
Advancing Careers in Healthcare
Recognizing the need to provide convenient healthcare training opportunities to its employees, Memorial partnered with Midwest Career Source Vocational School (MCS) and St. Clair County’s Intergovernmental Grants Department (IGD) to create a unique opportunity to “grow” its direct patient care team and help reduce turnover in entry-level roles.

“Our intent is to offer this class to our internal employees looking for career progression,” said Terri Halloran, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Memorial. “The ability to have the class on-site was a plus due to transportation concerns of employees in getting to an off-site class location or clinical rotation.”

After discussing this concept with others and learning from the experiences of colleagues across BJC where similar programs are in place, Halloran said Memorial decided to partner with MCS because they offered more personalized training and an onsite class schedule. In addition, St. Clair County’s IGD administers the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act services, and through this program, provides the funding necessary to complete the CNA (PCT) portion of the program.

“IGD has enjoyed a long-term relationship with Midwest Career Source and is pleased to be able to share in the support of BJC’s worker training efforts,” said Rick Stubblefield, executive director of St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants and Economic Development Departments. “Right now, it is very difficult for employers to attract new workers so the concept of advancing the skills of existing employees and moving them to more complex better-paying positions with opportunity for promotion makes perfect sense.”

MCS was established in 2012 by the Reset to Success Foundation and is approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The Reset to Success Foundation is a 501c3 established in 2006 with the vision of providing educational programs/job readiness training, life development skills, career mentoring, tutoring, case management, and job placement services.

The program is targeted at employees working in other hospital departments who have a passion for a role in direct patient care. Currently, MCS offers a patient care technician (PCT) program at Memorial, however, there is a desire to expand program offerings in the future to include other roles in direct patient care.

The eight-week program is a blend of theory, classroom learning, and clinical hours. Upon successful completion of the program, students can take the state examination. Participants who complete the program are registered through the Department of Labor (DOL) as registered apprentices. The related training for CNA/PCT Apprentice is performed by MCS with Memorial providing the on-the-job training.

Sulbrena Day, RN, MSN, Ph.D., program administrator for Midwest Career Source, said this program utilizes a best practice consultative case management approach focused on one year of monitoring performance for each student completing the program.

“Through this model, MCS works in collaboration with Memorial Hospital leadership to enhance job performance and work ethic,” Day added. “MCS works closely with the apprentice to help employees navigate challenges and barriers that could impact employment thereby reducing turnover and improving retention.”

Memorial’s goal was to implement this training opportunity as a pilot for other healthcare career needs, Halloran explained. If there are not enough internal candidates to fill the class, we take referrals from our employees or from a list of applicants who have applied to work at BJC but needed additional training for the role.

“MCS has exceeded our expectations in providing a quality product to our employees,” Halloran added. “They have been an excellent partner in soliciting feedback as well as providing feedback on how to be successful with each individual hire. Sulbrena has developed relationships with our talent advisor for hiring, the hiring managers, and internal clinical resources to support the students throughout the program and beyond – having these key connections is a plus.”

Program Success Story

Geneva Fox says she has always wanted to work in the medical field. A mother of two young boys, she worried about cutting hours to go back to school.

“Growing up I wanted to be a nurse, but the older I got the more I realized how many more roles and options there were,” said Fox, who worked as a supply distribution tech at Memorial Shiloh for a year before transferring to the PCT program, a collaborative offering through Memorial, BJC, Midwest Career Source, and St. Clair County Department Intergovernmental Grants Department. She is now a PCT on a medical/surgical unit at Memorial in Shiloh.

Fox calls this program “unbelievably life-changing. This program allowed me to further my education without having to worry about finances.”

Although undecided on what role she wants to pursue, her goals are to further her education in the medical field. This offers the chance to get experience in a medical/surgical unit while exploring future career interests.

“I am thinking about a medical/surgical nurse, respiratory therapist, or wound nurse,” she said. “All of those roles interest me. This program is an amazing opportunity and provides a chance to open doors.”
Leading Students to Careers in Career and Technical Education
Cutting Edge Careers Palooza
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in coordination with the Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support (ICSPS) hosted a five-day-long virtual event on May 3-7, 2021 highlighting career paths within career and technical education. The goal of the Cutting Edge Careers Palooza was to inform, educate, and expose current high school students across Illinois to the benefits and opportunities within a CTE program of study.

The Palooza presented a combination of live webinars, on-demand videos, and games to encourage exploration of different career options within CTE and share how students can get started on a career path now. The free event was open to all Illinois students and reached over 2,000 individuals within the secondary system. Students were encouraged to participate with gamification elements that allowed them to earn points and win prizes for the top three most engaged participants. All of the resources from the Palooza will continue to be accessible on the Palooza webpage.
Recruiting and Educating High School Students
Pre-apprenticeship Program
In March 2020, Perspectives Charter Schools, Chicago, was starting a pre-apprenticeship and education program for students to train as pharmacy technicians in health systems. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) 2020 high school pre-apprenticeship program was designed to transition students after high school graduation into a Registered Apprenticeship for entry-level Pharmacy Technician in Summer 2020. It was expected that graduating students would be 18 years and older in order to be certified and licensed in Illinois.

The plan was for students to start and complete educational requirements at Perspectives Math & Science Academy, Bronzeville campus, and then transition to a week-long internship at a local health system. Our goal was to expose the students to the pharmacy at an urban Level I Trauma-rated hospital campus. All efforts ceased when the Chicago Public Schools closed schools for the pandemic and sent students home. At the same time, the health system stopped planning to accept high school students because of COVID-required restrictions. Without students in school and without a health system to work in, all efforts were put on pause.

In December 2020, the ACPE team shifted student recruiting and education to the safety of student homes. We moved the entire pre-apprenticeship process online so that more students could access the opportunity. The students selected for the February 2021 start completed a free assessment called YouScience, which helps a student understand their aptitudes for specific jobs that are also aligned with their interests. The result is a 40-page report and online resources that directly address a student’s talents. Information on specific talents is mapped to occupations — guiding a student to make effective choices in their post-graduation lives. Students who indicated an interest in allied health fields and an aptitude for pharmacy technician work responsibilities were invited to an introductory meeting. All students attending the meeting were invited to start the pharmacy tech pre-apprenticeship program.

ACPE’s program consists of a one-hour assessment for math and communication skills, followed by a seven-hour boot camp of introductory lessons, videos, and quizzes, to gauge learning outcomes and persistence. Current students who completed the boot camp were assigned a pharmacist as a course mentor and they continue now with the competency program that offers an additional 39 hours of learning. In June, students will be invited to tour pharmacy operations in pharmaceutical manufacturing labs, chain pharmacies, and health systems that have re-opened to the public so that they can see practicing pharmacists and technicians work side-by-side. These same students will finish their studies, graduate from high school, and be prepared to take a national Pharmacy Tech certification exam. The goal is to pass the certification exam so that within a week of graduation, Illinois will license them as a Pharmacy Technician and the ACPE and Perspectives teams will place them into Registered Apprenticeships as entry-level technicians or employment for students who want to start college and work part-time.

This “onboarding to apprenticeship” process is a 24/7 online recruiting and placement strategy for Registered Apprenticeship that pre-qualifies and educates interested students for employers, all without charge to the student. The goal of the program is to offer employers committed students who have completed 40 hours+ of technician education aligned to employer needs.
Closing the Gaps
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
As the principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) rise to the prominence they deserve in workforce development activities, a nascent department in the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is working to stand up programs that will promote the closing of gaps based on race, gender, and disability.

Illinois Works is the product of the Illinois Works Jobs Program Act designed to ensure equality of access to state capital projects as well as careers in the construction industry and building trades. Populations that have been historically underrepresented are empowered to break into those occupations and contracts by leveraging the apprenticeship model.

The Illinois Works Apprenticeship Initiative aims to have apprentices perform 10 percent of the labor for all contracted projects of $500,000 or more. Illinois Works seeks to achieve that goal through standing up its own pre-apprenticeship programs designed to prepare DEI populations for a successful transition into building trades apprenticeships, and by incentivizing contractors to utilize persons who have successfully complete the pre-apprenticeship. Contractors or subcontractors who employ apprentices who have completed the Illinois Works pre-apprenticeship will be eligible to earn bid credits for future state-funded public works projects.
Through the Lens of a Career and Technical Education Instructor
IT Instructor Dr. Kristine Christensen
What better way to celebrate Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructors than introducing you to one – Dr. Kristine Christensen.

Although she never saw herself as an educator, Kristine Christensen has been part of the Computer Information Systems (CIS) and Automation and Engineering Technology (AET) faculty at Moraine Valley Community College for 20 years, the last three spent teaching in AET. The teaching ‘bug’ bit Dr. Christensen while she was pursuing her master’s degree in Management Information Systems when she accepted an invitation to teach an undergraduate introduction to information systems course in the business department. “I was a bit apprehensive since I did not have any teaching experience,” Dr. Christensen admits, “but the idea of helping people learn about a subject that I had a passion for was intriguing and I love to challenge myself, so I said yes. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.” Near the end of her studies, she was offered a position at Moraine Valley Community College where she’s been part of the faculty ever since.

Dr. Christensen was kind enough to answer some questions about her role, her students, and the changes she’s seen in CTE during her 20-year career.

Five Questions with Dr. Kristine Christensen, Professor of Information Management Systems at Moraine Valley Community College (Disclaimer the words expressed below were lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Why did you decide to be a CTE instructor?
Prior to teaching several courses at Governors State University, I never saw myself as an educator. That experience helped me make the decision to pursue a teaching career, specifically in technology. I loved the idea of helping students learn valuable skills that they could transfer to their careers and everyday lives.
What do you like best about what you do?
The thing I love most about my job is the students. I love helping them learn skills that they can use in their professional and personal life, hearing about and seeing how they applied what they learned in class, being inspired by and learning from my students, and hearing about current and former student successes.
What do you see in your students that impresses you?
I am always impressed by students who discover their passion for a subject, become immersed in learning more about it, and then sharing what they’ve learned with others in the class. It is one of the benefits of being a teacher in this field.
You’ve been in the role a while – what changes are you seeing in students and in CTE programs as a whole?
 I have happily seen a more diverse group of students in my classroom. I believe that mentoring and other programs offered by the college have encouraged students who would have not otherwise pursued these fields to register for CTE courses.
What’s the one thing you hope your students take away from your class?
I hope my students gain confidence, become risk-takers and say yes to opportunities, and realize the importance and value of being lifelong learners.
Success Story
Healthcare Career Pathway Training
 Lake County Workforce Development qualifies individual jobseekers for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) training grants available through the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Ronny was working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at an assisted living facility with a career dream of becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). Ronny knew there were steps involved to achieve that dream and contacted the Job Center of Lake County to learn more about the steps and apply to Workforce Development for WIOA grant assistance with schooling. 

Ronny qualified for training grant funding under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and started coursework to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at State Career College, Waukegan, IL. As a dual parent working family, Ronny and her husband balanced their work and school schedules with childcare for their young son. These challenges continued when COVID-19 started and classes were moved to an online format. Since Ronny continued her part-time CNA job, she often found herself studying until midnight. Ronny successfully finished the program in October 2020 and became the first student in her class to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN).

In less than a month, Ronny began working as an LPN earning over $25 per hour at two work sites: Zee’s Healthcare, LLC and Village at Victory Lakes. Ronny is continuing her professional development and plans to obtain a Bachelor's next. When asked what advice she would give to other job seekers, Ronny stated “Never give up if you want something good in life. You must work hard, be patient, and be determined no matter what. Grab the opportunities afforded to you!” 
IWIB's Reading Corner
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