Making It Work

By Brotherton, Phaedra | Techniques, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Making It Work


Brotherton, Phaedra, Techniques


The Racine Workforce Development Center pools resources and personnel to create a successful one-stop shop for job seekers and employers alike.

When Sandra Adams walked into the Racine Workforce Development Center (WDC) last November, she was out of a job, broke and worried about how "being an older person" would affect her job prospects.

The WDC staff recognized that this trained medical technician not only needed practical help with such skills as writing a resume and searching job listings, but she also required a self-confidence boost. Adams, in her late 50s, had left her longtime job and wasn't sure if she could successfully re-enter the workforce. Staff members referred her to one of the center's career tech counselors, who spoke with Adams about her various concerns. After reviewing the results of Adams's aptitude assessments, the counselor encouraged her to look for a job in her field.

This confirmation of her skills and abilities gave Adams the confidence to pursue the job she wanted. She took full advantage of the center's free workshops on how to interview and how to dress for success. The workshops, conducted by local community college faculty members, also helped Adams prepare a resume and apply for jobs in her field.

In January, she accepted a position as a medical technologist in Illinois. "The WDC helped me to develop my confidence and took away a lot of my nervousness about looking for a job," says Adams. "Everyone was friendly and answered my questions. They didn't make me feel that any of my questions were stupid."

The WDC is more than just a center, explains manager Debra Jossart. It is a complete system. Indeed, the Racine, Wis., facility was recently honored by the National Alliance of Business for providing services to job seekers and employers through innovative funding and partnering with local agencies and programs.

And the U.S. Department of Labor recently cited the Racine WDC in its publication One-Stop Watch as a model of what a one-stop center should be. A one-stop center streamlines services by allowing individuals access to information, training resources and other programs in one place.

A blueprint for success

The WDC opened in 1996 after the Racine County executive and Board of Supervisors agreed to finance the $14.5 million renovation of an old, vacant manufacturing warehouse. The modernized building provides about 58,000 square feet of working space for the WDC and also houses the Racine County Human Services Department.

The WDC focuses on serving job seekers and local employers. To provide one system of employment services for all county residents, Racine County officials combined employment and training services from various agencies in a local version of a block grant. Several agencies and programs gave up part or all of their individual project funding to combine money, staff and services for the center as a whole. Those organizations are the Racine County Human Services Department, the Southeastern Wisconsin Private Industry Council, Lakeshore District Job Service, Gateway Technical College and the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Two entities representing employers--the Economic Development Corporation and the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce group--also serve on the WDC's Management Committee.

The WDC is organized into functional teams from each participating group, with no one team staffed from just one organization, says Jossart. For example, one team has five full-time staff members supplied by three different organizations. "They all work for the center, although they may get paid by different organizations," she explains. The teams practice open communication and stay focused on meeting customer and community needs, says Jossart.

Most of the WDC's clients are between the ages of 22 and 39. The majority (58 percent) are male. Sixty-two percent of clients have high school or equivalent diplomas, while 36 percent have at least some college. …

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