rocki wilkerson

Hometown: Decatur

Family: I have been married 34 years to Jack. Jack is from Decatur. We have two children, Jillian Lee and Wyatt Hayden.

Work experience: I have 25 years of experience in adult education. I was specifically engaged with professional development, BRIDGE programs, career pathways and short-term vocational programs. I have spent most of my career developing programs that help individuals obtain the skills needed to become employed.   

Education: I graduated from Stephen Decatur High School. I have an associate’s degree from Lincoln College; bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Eastern Illinois University; master’s degree in human services from the University of Illinois.

My “I’d rather be …” bumper sticker would read: “I’d rather be spending time with family and friends.” I enjoy a lot of activities, but my favorite way to spend time is with my family and friends.

Hobbies/interests: Swimming, dancing and country music. 

My first job: De-tasseling corn.  I was 14 and was required to get a work permit. My parents told me if I started the job there would be NO quitting. No matter how hot it got, or how long of a day, or even if my friends quit. Once, I made a commitment I was required to follow it through. That lesson has stayed with me.  

Why I do what I do: I have always been a cheerleader at heart. I am always pulling for the ones that need the most time and attention. I believe that if given a chance, most people want to excel and do a good job. Now, on the other hand, I am realistic. People have to WANT to go to work and they must WANT to improve. I have been fortunate to see many students/customers learn skill sets and complete programs that lead to better opportunities and a better quality of life.

Personal approaches to challenges: My personal approach is a perseverance to live each day to the best of my ability. I learned early in life that things only get better if you work hard to make them better. I understand barriers and conflicts, and try to develop pathways for people to overcome them. I've had a lot of good examples in my personal and professional life. My parents instilled a strong work ethic in my sister and I, and never let us settle for less. My professional life was always full of strong women who accepted challenges straight on. There is always a solution, and successful people work until they find the right one.    

Community involvement: I have served on several boards. I served on the local Workforce board for many years, as well as the Catholic Charities board. I was active with the Illinois Association of Adult Educators, and the Illinois Advisory Board for Adult Education. My husband is an auto auctioneer and we donate our time to the community by raising money (auction style) for local charitable organizations.  We work together to raise money for our community.

What is Workforce Investment Solutions? It is a federally-funded program through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The state of Illinois, through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, administers and allocates the funding. Macon County is the grant recipient and the chairman of the county board, Jay Dunn, is designated as the chief elected official. All funds are administered through Macon County. Workforce is comprised of dedicated professionals committed to meeting the needs of a growing workforce in Macon and DeWitt counties. It is our mission to provide businesses with qualified employees by enhancing their skills and abilities through training and education.   

What are the primary challenges facing our workforce development?  The primary challenges include; job seekers who lack skill-sets for available jobs and lack of knowledge of where/how to access services. Macon and DeWitt Counties are rich with resources. The main concern is the lack of awareness of what services and/or resources are available in our community.

Workforce has developed a Business Services Team, comprised of the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services, Economic Development Corporation for Decatur and Macon County, the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce, Richland Community College and the city of Decatur. This team understands the services/resources available and is committed to addressing the needs and concerns of our local employers. We understand there is a community need for workers in health care, manufacturing and transportation and logistics. We also see a need to increase the awareness of apprenticeships and careers in the building/construction trades. The goal is to grow these occupational areas so that we can have a pool of applicants for the future needs of local employers.

What steps are being taken to address these challenges?  Workforce, and the partners at the Illinois workNet Center, provide an array of services for job seekers and businesses. 

Staff at the center can assist job seekers with resume development, interviewing skills, on-line applications and job search.  Workforce may be able to assist the job seeker with skill upgrades such as; tuition, fees, books, transportation, child care, etc. 

Workforce can assist businesses with recruitment, candidate screening and skill assessments.  Workforce also has resources to offer on-the-job training incentives to employers for a hire first/train later strategy. This incentive can reimburse an employer 50 percent of the wages of a new hire for up to 6 months.

What is the Richland/Workforce Consortium?  It is a partnership between Workforce Investment Solutions and Richland Community College. The Consortium is funded by an Adult Education and Family Literacy grant through the Illinois Community College Board. The Consortium will hold adult education classes downtown at the Decatur Public Library.  Classes include – free High School Equivalency (HSE), GED preparation, English as a Second Language (ESL) and BRIDGE programs to provide students with basic skills before transitioning to college and/or employment.

What is the role of Workforce Investment Solutions in the Consortium?  Workforce will provide BRIDGE programs in three occupational areas – health care, manufacturing and hospitality.  Students will enroll in a two-week session of essential/soft skills course before moving into the occupational-specific BRIDGE program. 

BRIDGE programs are designed to offer students the opportunity to increase their basic math and reading literacy while learning skills in occupational-specific sectors. Programs will begin in 2018.  Workforce will also be involved with the recruitment, assessment and selection of candidates for the program. In addition, Workforce will provide students with case management, resume development, interview techniques, job search and job placement.

What is the role of Richland Community College in the consortium? Richland Community College Adult Education Department will provide GED, English as a Second Language and Certified Nursing Assistant classes. They will assist students to transition into post-secondary education by helping them through the process of registration, academic advising and financial aid. Richland will also allow us to better align a partnership with Project Read, who is already located in the Decatur Public Library.  Adult education has always connected with Project Read, but it will be easier for our customers/students by being located in the same building. It’s a win-win.

What is the role of city of Decatur/Decatur Public Library in the consortium?  The library provides an excellent location to base the consortium and its classes. It is downtown and very easy to access. 

How can job seekers get involved? We would like to invite anyone who is looking for a job or employment services to come to the Illinois workNet center and take advantage of the resources.  Whether it’s to develop a resume, gain interview skills, look for employment or talk to a career planner, we want them to know we are here to help.  They can call (217) 875-8750, ext. 231.  Or just come in, we are located at 757 W. Pershing Road in Decatur. 

How can employers get involved? Employers looking for assistance with hiring and/or training can contact me at (217) 875-8720.  They can also contact anyone with the Business Services Team.  The team wants to help in any way we can.

We'd be remiss if we didn't ask about your name. My parents were watching a movie and there was a little girl with blonde hair named Rocki. My dad told my mom that is what they are going to name their daughter. My real name is Rockanne, but Rocki has stuck with me – even before I was born.

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