The Rockford region is transforming with the goal of becoming a Top 25 community. To do this, we must connect our residents with the excellent educational and career opportunities we have in this region.
In a major step toward that end, Rock Valley College was awarded a grant to serve as the lead organization in administering nearly $1.8 million of federal funds under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to provide workforce services to both individuals and businesses. RVC has formed partnerships with Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) to assist in carrying out these services.
RVC has been offering services to Dislocated Workers through this funding for over 30 years, but this new opportunity will allow RVC to take that experience and forge a new partnership that includes Goodwill of Northern Illinois, and continue what has been a prosperous partnership with IDES.
“This new, collaborative approach with Goodwill will help us build our local workforce through targeted training to individuals who are seeking employment and needed support for local employers,” says Amanda Smith, Dean of Transitional Opportunities and Career Education at RVC. “An emphasis will be placed on aligning local talent with employer needs, ensuring that the training received is what is needed to support our region.”
This new streamlined approach creates a one-stop operator and service provider for workforce development services in our region.
“Under this new model we will work together to identify strategies and build in efficiencies, while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” says Jeff Hefty, Director of RVC’s Dislocated Worker Program. “We’ll look at ways we can serve our common customers without duplicating efforts.”
Prior to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, area providers of workforce development services were certainly encouraged to work together, but often times agencies worked in silos and without a clear directive. That will now change under WIOA.
“The law is business driven. It’s employer driven. Businesses identify needs and we work with our educational partners to develop training to meet those needs,” says Hefty.
Some of the services this new consortium will work together to provide will include career advising and counseling to adults and dislocated workers, training in high demand areas based on demonstrated local needs, and job search and placement assistance, all with a focus on improving relationships with employers.
This is all music to the ears of RVC President Dr. Doug Jensen. Since he began his presidency at the College in October of 2016, Dr. Jensen has made it clear that workforce development should be a major focus for the College.
“If we want to have a strong community we need to have a strong workforce. If we want a strong workforce we need to have a strong economy. If we want to have a strong economy we need to have a strong community,” says Dr. Jensen. “Rock Valley College is uniquely positioned to help shape all three of those critical components for building sustainable communities.
“We must develop a workforce for the 21st century that will compel businesses to locate and grow in this region so that our residents will thrive. This is a crucial piece of how we will become a Top 25 community. We have the talent and the opportunity in our region. It is up to all of us to create the pathways that will allow that talent to attain the education, skills, and training necessary to make our workforce and our community flourish.”