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When I became the executive director of Workforce Investment Solutions, I knew I had big shoes to fill.

I was so excited to be working with employers and assisting customers with education and training needs for employment.

Opportunities were gleaming, and I knew a diamond was shining.

Workforce is truly a community gem. I like to describe it as a diamond in the sky.

The analogy is that a diamond shines in all elements – the elements representing the community, and the diamond representing Workforce Investment Solutions efforts to assist employers and job seekers in our community.

How do you find a job? How do you find a well-paying job? Do you need to change a career, but don’t have any funds for training? How do you attract and find qualified employees?

These are the expensive questions that individuals/and or employers ask but often have no answers.

It reminds me of wanting a diamond but knowing you do not have the funds to purchase it. Sometimes it seems out of reach and you don’t know where to begin.

This lack of knowledge often stops people from seeking out opportunity’s that are accessable and locally available.

Workforce Investment Solutions has been answering those questions for over 30 years. However, relatively few job seekers and employers know how to take advantage of its services. Years ago, it was called the CETA program, then the JTPA program. Now, the federally funded job-training program is part of the Workforce Opportunity Innovation Act (WIOA). Local WIOA boards are governed by the county boards in their geographic area. 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 country board is Jay Dunn. Dunn is designated as the chief elected official, and is the administrator of the grant.

Workforce is comprised of dedicated professionals committed to meeting the needs of a changing workforce in Macon and Dewitt counties.

The Workforce Investment board for Macon and Dewitt counties recently reorganized and elected new officers. Elected chairwoman was Tesa Stephens, human resource manager for AKORN Pharmaceuticals. Laurie Brown, executive director for Hickory Point Christian Village, was elected vice chairwoman.

The board is composed of community workforce entities, of which 51 percent are business representatives. Other members represent education and training, labor, government, economic and community development organizations. The primary function of the board is to oversee the operations of Workforce Investment Solutions, the organization that distributes education and employment funds. These training funds assist job seekers with services, classes and programs needed to find, prepare and keep the job of their choice.

The Workforce board is a key component for promoting local economic growth. The board’s vison is to serve as a strategic leader with local workforce system stakeholders. Career pathways within the local area are developed by aligning the employment, training, education and supportive services that are needed by adults and youth, particularly individuals with barriers to employment.

Members include: Melody Bodine of Regions Bank; Matt Briggs of Decatur Industrial Electric; Marian Brisard of Clinton Chamber of Commerce; Jeff Davidson of Richland Community College; Tim Dudley of the city of Decatur; Adam Flack of the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation; Mark Greenawalt of Plumbers, Steamfitters and Refrigeration Fitters Local 137; Kevin Horath of Decatur Memorial Hospital; Bruce Jeffrey of the Boys and Girls Club of Decatur; Jeanne Jones of Bodine Electric; Anatasia Lingle Lloyd of TCCI Manufacturing; Brian Lockwood of Express Employment Professionals; Ryan McCrady of Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County; John Oliver of Richland Community College; Beth Payne of Union Iron; Joe Riley of Laborers Local 159; Mirinda Rothrock of the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce; Joshua Sapp of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 146; Deborah Sarko of ADM Trucking; Paul Skowron of Warner Hospital Clinton; Julienne Shields of Millikin University; Wegi Stewart of The Community Foundation of Macon County; Darsonya Switzer of DOVE; Dennis Trump of Trump Printing; Cris Valdez of Richland Community College; Jody Wanless of the Illinois Department of Employment Security; and Robert Yuhas of McGuire, Yuhas, Huffman & Buckley PC.

The diamond also represents a shining object.

The Workforce board has the ability to enhance training programs, grow and collaborate partnerships, provide leadership with The One Stop Center and bridge the gap between today and tomorrow’s workforce by responding to the needs of businesses and job seekers.

This board of professionals will be assisting workforce growth in our community. These objects shine bright, leading the way!

This is the first of what I hope will be many columns that will be appearing in the Business Journal each month, providing information on a variety of employment topics including on the job training, work experience, employer incentives, education training assistance, employment workshops, the One Stop Center, youth grants, adults and dislocated worker programs, Rapid Response, the Adult Education Consortium, career planners, and employment specialists.

Happy New Year!

Rocki Wilkerson is director of Workforce Investment Solutions in Decatur.


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