Workforce Center of Will County PY20 Service Report

Page 1


Inside this report: Letter from the Board Highlights from PY20  Pivoting Production  Upskilling Your Workforce  Will Works Podcast  Creative Hiring Solutions  On-the-Job Training  Connect to Your Future

3 4

One-Stop Center Partners


Workforce Center Services


Customer Demographics


The Bottom Line—ROI


Workforce Investment Board


About this report… The PY20 Annual Report gives an overview of how the local workforce system, through the Workforce Center of Will County, helped bridge the gap from unemployment to employment. The unique circumstances of the past year encouraged us to adapt and elevate our operations and service to new digital methods of serving Will County job-seekers and employers. It includes stories that highlight the way our local system adapted and the impact made through the programs and services offered through the Workforce Center of Will County.

(Photos above: customers of the Workforce Center of Will County participated in a Thank You video and shared some of the reasons they are thankful for the support they received through the Center. More notes of thanks are at the end of this report.)

Program Year 20 continued where Program Year 19 left off—a challenge for all of us, and, at the writing of this report, the challenges remain in force. Our local workforce system team and subcontractors have not stopped serving our job seekers and employers. Throughout this past year, they have had to alter delivery systems to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic realities and to keep everyone safe. We have also been tasked with delivering new funding streams to assist businesses through the COVID-19 crisis. Throughout this past year, our workforce center staff and partners were dedicated to keeping our essential operations running in an efficient and effective manner. Our charge as the Workforce Investment Board of Will County entails not only administering the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs to job seekers and employers, but it also includes a responsibility to facilitate the growth of better paying jobs for our citizens. This requires work with stakeholder partners such as economic development agencies, schools, colleges, community based organizations, collective impact groups, and private industry to identify new demand training programs and new models of training delivery systems that will provide industry with the workers they need-- when they need them. Ongoing efforts continue in working with all stakeholders to design programs and apply for funding to finance the growth that is needed in our economy. This Annual Report will highlight accomplishments of our local workforce system last program year. If you are interested in learning more about the workforce board, visit, and be sure to visit our workforce center website at Sincerely,

Elizabeth Gonzalez Elizabeth Gonzalez Board Chair

Caroline L. Portlock WIB Director

203 N. Ottawa Street, Suite 100, Joliet, IL 60432

WIB Board Chair, Beth Gonzalez, visiting with Dave Nichols, Workforce Services Division on the Mobil Workforce Center.


Serving others never stopped, we just had to change the way we delivered services. However, during a time when most meetings and events took place virtually, it’s been great to reconnect in person.

WIB Director, Caroline Portlock, attending the ground breaking for Lion Electric with DCEO Director Sylvia Garcia. 3

Highlights from Program Year 20 Pivoting Production Many employers adapted quickly and made the necessary changes to continue production of their products. Some needed to completely change their product mix in order to maintain their current workforce. Through a grant from Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Workforce Investment Board was able to assist 11 companies, averting 159 employees from being laid off if the company had to close due to the pandemic. One company that was able to continue operating with assistance from this grant was Riverton Cabinet Company in New Lenox. The company used funds to purchase proper personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to create a sanitized workspace for their employees and visitors in their building. They also purchased laptops for those employees who needed to work remotely which ensured that customer orders continued to be processed and the production line did not stop. As a result, 46 employees remained employed and Riverton Cabinets kept their business open. "Riverton Cabinet Company is grateful for the help we received from the Workforce Investment Board of Will County, keeping our staff employed and our business sustainable through such an uncertain time, stated Keith Hinshaw, owner of Riverton Cabinet Company. “The Board is a tremendous asset to our community and we appreciate the work they do and the relationship we have with them."

Will Works is on the Air! Workforce recently introduced “Will Works” – a new podcast focused on providing content for Will County businesses and job-seekers. Each episode focuses on a service, highlights a resource, or explores a challenging topic – from either a job-seeker or a business point of view. The podcast is hosted by workforce system partners, Cleopatra (Cleo) Cook and Patrick Hall, and features interviews with business owners and community leaders in education, community, and economic development on the workforce issues and trends.

Cleo and Patrick in their podcast studio getting ready to tape their next episode.

“Cleo and I are excited to be a part of the Will Works Podcast,” stated Patrick. “Now more than ever, the workforce needs innovative solutions to a multi-faceted, complex labor shortage problem.” Cleo added, “We hope this podcast provides an additional resource and discussion outlet for those that live, work, and or hire in Will County.” The Podcast is an exciting new way to promote our workforce system and the resources available throughout our County – and is available at, Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Patrick and Cleo area always looking for episode topics that are meaningful to their listeners! Email your episode ideas to 4

Creative Hiring Solutions to Connect Job-Seekers with Businesses When in-person hiring events and job fairs were put on hold, the Workforce team needed to get creative to help job-seekers connect with businesses. Traditional hiring events (employers lined up at tables greeting job-seekers) gave way to virtual platforms and drive-thru models. Two unique ideas that started in Will County are now being replicated throughout the state: 

Drive-Thru Job Fairs: At dr ive-thru job fairs, an area of the organization's parking lot is cordoned off for job seekers to drive through and complete any necessary paperwork from their cars, without having to step inside an office. They can then be matched with opportunities that fit their skill sets and needs onsite. Drive-thru job fairs allow the hiring manager and candidate to connect more personally than over a video platform or the phone while still remaining socially distant.

Drive-Thru Job Fairs provided a great opportunity to connect employers and job-seekers while maintaining social distancing protocols.

Job Fair In-A Bag: Each Wednesday, par ticipants r eceive a bag containing job listings from Will County businesses and information about programs WCWC offers to aid in a job search. Attendees may pick up a bag and go or are welcome to stay and use the Resource Room to prepare their résumé or view the online job board.

Upskilling Your Workforce The Employee Training Grant Program is a great way to upskill your current workforce. This grant program is fairly flexible in its application, allowing eligible businesses to discern what skill-related trainings their employees need, who will train their employees, and when/where the training will take place. Though there is a match requirement, in most cases, the costs of training can be fully reimbursed at the end of training. Brennan Equipment and Mfg, Inc, worked with the Workforce Board on their class schedule decreasing the number of employees in each training class allowing for social distancing.

Local employers Joe McCaul, Borowski Race Engines, Bruce Bechtel, Brennan Equipment and Mfg, Inc, and Kraig Kistinger, National Tube Supply joined Mary Gajcak of the Workforce Board for a conversation about the program. The video is available for viewing on the Workforce Board’s website:

Several businesses were able to continue utilizing the program by hosting virtual training sessions, hosting more classes with fewer employees per class, or changing training location to a larger space. Little Giant products are manufactured in the USA by Brennan Equipment & Manufacturing, Inc. It’s extensive line of innovative material handling and industrial storage solutions is a result of over 100 years of history in the manufacturing sector. Brennan Equipment has been on a LEAN journey for a few years. Their company continues to benefit from the continuous improvement habits this training has produced and wanted to continue the training with two distinct tracks— a problem solving track for their seasoned employees and a fundamentals track for newer team members. This training is crucial to Brennan’s future and provides the skills needed to provide world-class, quality products while remaining competitive. The Employee Training Grant Program provided Brennan the opportunity to continue training their employees in the LEAN process with a series of workshops facilitated by IMEC. In the end, Brennan Equipment and Manufacturing was able to train 50 employees in four workshops and continue their continuous improvement process. 5

A Family Affair It all began when Lory contacted the Workforce Center looking for options to forge a new career path. She knew she wanted to pursue training for a new job through the WIOA program. The E&ES team, Will County Workforce’s On-the-Job Training partner, was able to connect her with a great OJT opportunity at X-Cel Technologies, located in Tinley Park. In January 2021, Lory was hired and began her training as a Quality Control Inspector, earning wages while she learned new skills. Soon after, Lory connected her two sisters, Janette and Janely, to X-Cel's Human Resources team. Both were also interested in starting new careers. The X-Cel team sent Janette and Janely to the E&ES team for an OJT program orientation and they were hired. Janette and Janely began their training as CNC Machine Operators just a few weeks after Lory was hired.

Sisters Lory, Janette, and Janely are now part of the team at X-Cel Technologies thanks to their participation and successful completion of the On-the-Job Training Program.

Today, all three Barraza sisters continue their employment at X-Cel. The three of them are powerful examples of how On-the-Job Training can help job seekers begin new careers while earning wages. The E&ES team in Will County is proud to support Lory, Janette, and Janely as they achieve their goals.

Connect to Your Future Noemi has always wanted to do something in the dental field. She said that, as a child, she loved going to the dentist and has always been “tooth obsessed”. During sophomore year of high school, she had to research and present on careers in the dental field. During this research, she found out about the Connect to Your Future scholarship program. Noemi felt that becoming a dental hygienist seemed like to right fit for her. She enrolled at Joliet Junior College to begin the pre-requisite classes for this program and worked towards applying to Dental Hygiene programs.

Noemi (left) has meet several friends through school and her current employer, Naperville Dental Specialists. She recently participated in a 5k with fellow team members.

Because of the intense and competitive nature of training programs in healthcare industries, Noemi knew she would have to learn how to discipline herself. She had to learn new ways to study and create higher personal academic standards for herself. However, Noemi knew that this was what she wanted to do, so she stayed focus on her goals and she was accepted in a Cooperative Agreement program for Dental Hygienist at Prairie State College. Noemi reports that the best part of her experience is the support she was given through the program and the friendships has created along the way. These have helped her to stay on track and ensure her success. Noemi finished her training in May 2020, but due to the challenges of completing her clinical hours during a pandemic, she officially graduated in December 2020. Noemi is working full time in a dental office as a dental hygienist and is excited about putting all of her training to work. Eventually, Noemi would like help implement dental health in the undeserved communities. With her commitment and passion towards her studies, we have no doubt she will be very successful and a true asset to the community she will serve! 6

One-Stop Center The Workforce Center of Will County is designed to offer seamless access to training programs and employment in an integrated system for job seekers and businesses. Center partners provide guidance and access to resources and services that can help with entering or re-entering the workforce. While all partners are in one location, they provide both integrated and distinct programs and services for residents and employers. Workforce Services Division (WSD) helps job-seekers with career counseling, résumé/job search assistance, and job training scholarships. WSD assists employers in connecting with qualified candidates and provides training grants to improve employee skills. In addition, WSD manages the Connect to Your Future (youth) and On-the-Job Training Programs. Will County has a Mobile Workforce Center (MWC) which travels to various locations in the more remote areas of the County, setting up at Libraries and Village Halls. The MWC allows for customers, both jobseekers and businesses, to access the same comprehensive services available in the resource room of the Workforce Center. JJC’s Workforce Education Department provides basic skills services for adults. In addition, the Department has an advisor at the Center for adults who receive career scholarships and are attending JJC. IDES helps job seekers, including those collecting unemployment benefits, in finding work. IDES also assists employers with recruiting, and provides specific employment and training services for veterans. Illinois Department of Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation Services helps individuals with disabilities maximize their employability, independence, and integration into the workplace and society. The following agencies are part of the Workforce Center by providing specific programs and services under agency grants:

Workforce Center of Will County 2400 Glenwood Avenue Joliet, IL 60435


Workforce Center Services The Workforce Center of Will County is an American Job Center (AJC) and AJC’s are at the heart of the workforce investment system under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). These centers provide an integrated array of high-quality services so that workers, job seekers, and businesses can conveniently find the help they need under one roof in easy to reach locations. American Job Centers are designed to help businesses find qualified workers and help job seekers obtain employment and training services to enhance their careers.

Benefits of a Comprehensive American Job Center   

Ease of access to all services for the customer. Technology driven approach to efficient and effective service delivery. A place where the multiple organizations who may serve the customer is transparent.

Job Seeker Resources At the Workforce Center of Will County, job seekers have access to a variety of services to help conduct an effective job search, including:      

the Resource Room with computers, printers, copier, and fax for use in job searches assistance with employment cover letters and applications consultation with Certified Professional Career Coach or Global Career Development Facilitator assistance from a Certified Professional Résumé W riter access to various workshops which are held throughout the monthlivestreamed and archived to view anytime use of a Computer Lab to gain more knowledge of basic computer skills, including Microsoft Office products

The Workforce Center maintains a website ( which outlines programs and services available both at the Workforce Center and offsite. It also maintains a robust social media presence to promote various events, services and job postings. A dedicated Job Board is accessible by visiting

Business Services The Will County Business Services Team is comprised of unique partners across the county who provide businesses with additional resources to make a significant impact on an employer’s recruiting, training, and retention needs. These services include:     

Job Board, Hiring Events, and Résumé Gallery Labor Market Information Access to Employee Training and On-the-Job Training Grants Ability to offer Paid Internships to youth Tax Credits and Fidelity Bonding

The Will County Business Services Team actively participates in the Workforce Partners of Metro Chicago, a ten-county regional group, to coordinate hiring events, outreach and projects to assist businesses that have more than one location in the region or are located close to the County border. 8

Just the Facts The following tables provide general demographic data about the Will County customers who utilized the Workforce Center between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

Workforce Center & Mobile Workforce Center Service

Jul - Sep

Oct - Dec

Jan - Mar

Apr - Jun

PY 20

PY 19

Total Services







Total Number of Customer Visits













Total Number of Unique Customers

Though services never stopped, the number of customers served decreased drastically this past program year. Providing meetings, orientations, and workshops in a hybrid format ensured that those job-seekers actively seeking employment were able to connect with services needed. The Center uses the G*Stars Customer Tracking System platform and assigns each customer a unique ID number. This platform is used to generate the tables and charts in the section. (During a portion of this past program year, information typically retrieved was not included in order to expedite services remotely. Therefore, a comparison of some of the demographic information is not available for PY20.)

Referrals The chart below outlines how customers heard about the Workforce Center. As in past program years, the majority heard about the Center through a friend or relative at 22.55%. However, due to an enhanced online presence, the number of customers who heard about the Center through the internet and social media increased dramatically over previous years—combining these two categories means that over 22.92% found the Center through their online browsing.


Municipality Aurora

Customers 11

Beecher Bolingbrook Braidwood

1 95 8

Channahon Coal City

10 2

Crest Hill Crete

36 10

Elwood Frankfort

5 18

Homer Glen Joliet

9 1,059 46

Lockport Manhattan Minooka

7 8





New Lenox


Orland Park


Park Forest






Customers by Zip Code

Romeoville Shorewood

56 31

The above map represents where the customers live that received services through the Workforce Center of Will County.

Tinley Park


University Park


Wilmington Outside Will Co

24 9

More than 65% of the customers reside in the Joliet area. The next largest group of customers are from Plainfield at 6.2%, followed by Bolingbrook at 5.8% and Romeoville at 3.4%

Joliet Customers The chart to the left is a detailed breakout of Joliet by zip code. Nearly half, 492, of the customers from Joliet reside in the 60431 zip code, The next largest group, 288, of Joliet based customers are from the 60435 zip code.


The Bottom Line When the US Department of Labor allocates funds to Local Workforce Areas to educate and train people for higher-paying jobs, they not only improve the individuals’ lifestyles, but that investment benefits employers, taxpayers, local and state governments. Workforce investments also produce widespread benefits for society as a whole, leading to sustained increases in productivity and economic growth. Returns from these investments are even more remarkable when considering the complexity of the barriers the investments are attempting to address. Below illustrates the most straightforward way of calculating the current return on workforce investments. Total Wages earned after training divided by the Total Investment or allocation received for the Will County Local Workforce Area. Using the total allocation, and not subtracting a portion for administrative use, still results in a positive return of $1.96 for Program Year 2020. It is worth noting that this ROI does not include the subsequent decreased usage of state funds through other programs as well as an increase taxes and benefits paid into the system which are considered indirect benefits of the workforce investment.

Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act Works: Return on Workforce Investments in Will County Total Wages

earned by WIOA eligible* customers after training

Total Investment

July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 includes training, operating, and subcontract costs to fulfill services

Average Annual Wage

of adult customers** who obtained a job after training


Return on Every Dollar Invested for Program Year 2020 ROI does not include (and considered additional benefits to the program):  Decrease in Unemployment Insurance payments  Decrease in TANF payments  Increase in Income Taxes paid on wages  Increase in FICA contributions (employee and employer) on wages  Increase in Employer benefits from activities such as training grants, hiring events, workshops +  Increase in Wages related to employment for the 4,429 visitors to the Workforce Center of Will County between July 1, 2020—June 30, 2021 *Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) - meets eligibility guidelines ** adults defined as over 24 years of age + counts unique customer visits


Accountability The Workforce Investment Board of Will County is proud to be the catalyst for the local workforce system that brings together a myriad of employment, training, and educational services. The Board continues to build a system supporting an education and workforce system aligned with the skills that businesses need, ensuring continued local and regional economic vitality.

Board of Directors Tracy Ardis Silver Cross Hospital

Damien Mc Donald IL DHS Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS)

Herbert Brooks, Jr. Will County Board

Judith Mitchell, Ed.D Joliet Junior College

Jayme Cain-Casimere The Times Weekly

Patrick Mudron Mudron Kane Insurance Agency

Rocky Caylor Cadence Premier Logistics

Mike Paone Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry

David Conterio Hometown National Bank

Josh Potter Village of Romeoville

Gloria Dollinger The Community Foundation of Will County

Andy Rico IBEW Local 150

Elizabeth Gonzalez, Board Chair Pace Suburban Bus

Jim Rink Integris

Donald ‘Doc’ Gregory UA Local 597 Pipefitters

Gerardo Ruiz IL DHS Temporary Assistance Needy Families (TANF)

John Greuling Will County CED

Suzanne Sallay ASG Staffing

Linda Guerrero Illinois Department of Employment Security

Diana Sharpe ComEd

Maribeth Hearn University of Saint Francis

Michele Smith Joliet Junior College Adult Education & Literacy

Rita Herrick Lewis University

Michelle Stiff Workforce Services Division of Will County

Carlos Interial UPS

Ben Stortz Cornerstone Services, Inc.

Kraig Kistinger, Vice-Chair National Tube Supply

James Tromp Office of James Tromp CPA

Paul Lauridsen Stepping Stones Treatment & Recovery Center

Kurt Trost ManpowerGroup

Cornell Lurry Midland States Bank

Shawn Walsh Will County Regional Office of Education

Board Staff: Caroline Portlock, Director

Mary Gajcak, Business Liaison Susan Davinger, Administration

Partnerships play a key role in our local workforce system. In addition to our Board participation, several others serve on one or more of our Board Committees to provide insights and information.

Roger Fisher, Joliet Job Corp Neal Kauffman - JJC Business/Education Successful Transitions Elizabeth Kaufman - Wilco Area Career Center Scott Kettman, Workforce Services Division of Will Co Monica Lowe, Workforce Services Division of Will Co Dan Perusich—Employer and Employment Services Michelle Sebasco, Governors State University


Our local workforce system prepares people for employment, helps workers advance in their careers, and seeks to build a skilled workforce to support employers and the local economy.

203 N. Ottawa Street, Suite 100 Joliet, IL 60432 815.727.5670

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.