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June 2018 Issue

From the Executive Director:
La Vida Buena

Staff Spotlight:
Stephanie Burkholder


College Possible


Grand Island Community Foundation


Heartland Workforce Solutions

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Heartland Workforce Solutions
Connects Businesses with Qualified Candidates

Raising the Bar | Economic Growth & Opportunity | June 2018

Peter Kiewit Foundation awarded Heartland Workforce Solutions (HWS) $50,000 for one year of general operating support in June, 2017. HWS is a non-profit organization that partners with over 15 area agencies to promote and develop a workforce system that is responsive to the needs of businesses and career seekers with economic prosperity as the goal.

“We are a collective impact organization who brings the agencies who serve workforce needs together to provide a more systematic approach to meeting the needs of both businesses and career seekers,” says Alejandro Sinecio, HWS manager of workforce performance.

HWS partners with area businesses to identify skill requirements for employment openings as well as connecting them with qualified workers. They ensure that job candidates possess a literacy level and the basic math skills necessary for gainful employment. On the other end, HWS service providers support individuals as they pursue their career paths by providing a variety of resources to ensure success: interest and aptitude assessments, coaching, job search assistance, training and attaining educational and employment credentials.

One tool that helps HWS connect workers with businesses is the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC). It is an assessment-based credential issued at four levels, measuring and certifying essential work skills needed for success in jobs across industries and occupations. To be a nationally recognized ACT Work Ready Community, individual counties meet criteria based, in part, on how many businesses recognize the NCRC and the number of individuals who have passed the assessment. Douglas County is 67 percent of the way toward their goal with 75 businesses and 1,247 individual assessments. HWS staff expects that Douglas County will meet the criteria to be recognized as an ACT Work Ready Community by March, 2019.

“We have really two main customers: businesses and career seekers,” Sinecio adds. “It’s all about working with both customers to make sure they are meeting each other in the middle and that one is ready for the other.”

HWS service providers partnered with Metropolitan Community College to initiate weeklong career placement pipeline programs that prepare candidates for career opportunities with employers who are engaged with the NCRC and Work Ready Communities Initiative. Participants finish the week having completed the NCRC as well as earning work ethics certificates and customer service certificates when applicable. Partner businesses hire participants on the spot following completion of the program.

According to Krystal Rider, HWS business service coordinator, NCRC business partnerships are working to improve hiring practices and employment retention. “We have a lot of local data now through the pipeline programs that we created with MCC to support that this is actually working.” Airlite Plastics is a business partner that recognizes the NCRC and is seeing substantial results. “They told us they don’t really have any positions that they are hiring for right now. It is making an impact to the point that they don’t have to hire 20 people every two weeks anymore,” she says.

HWS is making real progress as it strives to connect businesses with qualified workers to close employment gaps and bolster the economic landscape in the Heartland.

HWS Creates Opportunities through Training and Support

A HWS talent development instructor works with a group of parents at the Learning Community Center of South Omaha to create professional resumes. HWS provides weekly programming for this group of 20 parents to prepare them for the workforce by assisting with resume development, interviewing skills, and attaining employment readiness certification.

Single Mother of Three Finds Support to Continue Education

HWS provided support to Julie, a single mom of three, while she worked toward earning an associate degree and employment in the human services field. She received assistance with tuition, books, mileage, interview clothing, on-the-job training, and car insurance. “If it was not for the program, I would not have been able to finish my schooling along with keeping up with the cost of living for me and my children,” Julie says. “The services I received impacted me and is the reason why I am currently employed full time at Iowa Western Community College as an assistant to the Dean.”

Workforce Trainers Witness HWS Impact

“I have the opportunity to work with job seekers, training them in job search strategies, helping them to build resumes and coaching them on securing and maintaining meaningful employment. I get to help build confidence and provide encouragement to those who are at a point when they may question their value as a candidate,” says Marcia Prideaux, HWS talent development instructor. “I feel great when someone tells me they got a job, but the best feeling is when someone tells me that I helped them to feel like they deserved the job.”