IWIB Newsletter


2022 Vol 4 Issue 2

Table of Contents:

  1. Editor's Note
  2. IWP 2022 Annual Awards Luncheon
  3. Workforce Equity Initiative
  4. National Apprenticeship Week 2022
  5. Second Chance Hiring
  6. Thank You! Departing IWIB Members
  7. IWIB 2023 Meeting Dates

Editor's Note

Mike Conley, IWIB Newsletter Editor

As Calendar Year 2022 draws to a close, the IWIB Newsletter reflects on a number of exciting developments in the Illinois workforce system. In this issue, we offer progress reports on National Apprenticeship Week 2022, the Workforce Equity Initiative program supporting underrepresented populations, and the Illinois Workforce Partnership (IWP) awards luncheon and banquet, among other subjects.

As the critical labor shortage rages on with no apparent end in sight, the need for high-quality training, effective recruitment, and programming that allows traditionally underrepresented populations to thrive in the workplace is more apparent than ever. And while these are difficult times to be involved in workforce development, our difficulties bring out the best and most innovative ways to meet the challenges that face us now and into the future.

Illinois has emerged as a national leader in workforce development, and IWIB is and has been a big part of that success. Let us resolve together in the new year to continue our shared mission of providing programs and opportunities that are of mutual benefit to job seekers, businesses and employers, and society. As ever, when it comes to creating an equitable, just, and productive society, work leads the way.

--Mike Conley, Editor

IWIB Newsletter

IWP 2022 Annual Awards Luncheon

Illinois Workforce Partnership

Illinois Workforce Partnership Innovative Solutions Award Winner Midwest Tailer

This year, for the first time since 2019, The Illinois Workforce Partnership (IWP) celebrated the workforce system's successes in person!

IWP members promote business-driven talent solutions that integrate education, workforce, and economic development resources across systems to provide businesses, individuals, and communities with the opportunity to prosper and contribute to growing the State of Illinois economy.

IWP members represent the interest of 22 Local Workforce Innovation Boards (LWIB) and 10 Economic Development Regions in Illinois.

Illinois Workforce Partnership Business Leadership Gateway Bronco

This year, 33 award winners were honored in three categories: Individual Achievement, Business Leadership, and Innovative Solutions.

-Individual Achievement - Twenty-two individuals were recognized for successfully pursuing new career goals utilizing WIOA funding.

-Business Leadership - Twelve businesses were recognized for their leadership in their local workforce system.

-Innovative Solutions - The Innovative Solutions award winner was selected for their innovative state/local partnerships, programs, and/or projects that resulted in the economic growth of a community and/or region.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reinforces the partnerships and strategies necessary for the American Job Center (AJC) to provide all job seekers with the high-quality career, training, and supportive services they need to obtain and maintain good jobs.

This coordinated approach, including local state and federal government, community agencies, and public/private employers, better prepares a skilled workforce.

Illinois Workforce Partnership Individual Award Winner Armando Diaz

The past couple of years have been challenging. Leaders from the local workforce system went above and beyond to provide the essential services needed to businesses and job seekers as they navigated unprecedented times. Outside-the-box thinking was critical to ensure customers had the services necessary for success. Dedicated workforce professionals at the AJCs have worked tirelessly to provide services to businesses and job seekers.

We are incredibly proud of this year's award winners.

*The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is the federal legislation and funding stream administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. In Illinois, the funding is made available through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and allocated to Local Workforce Innovation Areas (LWIA) to support each local workforce system.

Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI)

At the Forum for Excellence Conference in September, leaders from the Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) presented their two-year success outcomes. WEI is a consortium of 18 participating community colleges in Illinois. In its first two years, WEI served over 6,500 Illinois residents producing over 6,100 credentials with a 61% completion rate and 67% employment rate. These impressive results were achieved through June 30, 2022.

Jennifer K. Foster, the Deputy Executive Director from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) led the presentation. She stated, "The last few years have brought education and employment challenges for our hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans, disproportionately affecting African American and other minority communities. The goal of the Workforce Equity Initiative is to create and expand short-term workforce training programs in high-need communities. All programs developed must be part of a career pathway that allows participants to obtain an industry recognized credential and/or a community college certificate in the shortest possible time while maintaining quality instruction and enhancing the participant’s eligibility for employment.”

Over the first two years of WEI, colleges achieved an outstanding African American participation rate of 73%. Employed students reported an average hourly wage of $20.39. The average cost per student enrolled is $5,300. This investment allows participating colleges to develop capacity in high-demand training programs and crucial student support services. Schools leverage partnerships with community organizations and provide wrap-around services. Students have access to paid tuition, stipends, childcare assistance, supplies, technology, transportation, counseling, tutors, success navigators, employment coaching, paid credential fees, and more.

To learn more about the Workforce Equity Initiative, please visit the consortium website at IllinoisWEI.org

The Forum for Excellence presentation is available below.

Successful Collaborations and Outcomes for the workforce equity initative

National Apprenticeship Week 2022

National Apprenticeship Week, celebrated the 14th-20th of November, was a massive success for Illinois. Illinois held over one hundred and sixty events and presented over thirty proclamations. Five of these events were hosted by Apprenticeship Illinois in a webinar series.

The week started with the first of five webinars, titled “Explosive Growth of Apprenticeships in Illinois.” This webinar had three unique perspectives: the state, the federal, and the business owner. Tony Fuhrmann, chair of the marketing workgroup under Apprenticeship Illinois, hosted the event and was joined by Debra Cremeens-Risinger -OA State Director, Kim Kuchenbrod- a consultant for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), and John Michel- the owner of Soulcial Kitchen in southern Illinois.

Tuesday’s “Non-Traditional Sectors” webinar focused on apprenticeships in non-traditional sectors, such as healthcare. It was hosted by Mike Conley- chair of the Apprenticeship Illinois Committee. He was joined by Payton Drury from the city of Collinsville, Michele Velez with the Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Pete Vlasses from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

Wednesday’s webinar was for mentors of apprentices, titled “Mentors.” Lee Reese of the St. Clair Intergovernmental Grants Department facilitated it. Lee was joined by Madison Blissenbach from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Bennie Parr of Bennie’s Pizza, Brian Mann from Memorial Hospital in Belleville, and Steve Rood from Mac Medical. The group discussed the importance of mentors, and each panelist shared their advice for future mentors.

“Employer Boot Camp” was held on Thursday and was facilitated by Tom Wendorf- co-chair of the Business Engagement Committee under the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board (IWIB). Tom was joined by an intermediary- Cindy Layman, a navigator- Lee Reese, and Kim Kuchenbrod. The group discussed the basics employers need to know to start an apprenticeship program.

Finally, on Friday, the most anticipated webinar was “Apprentice’s Stories.” Kim Kuchenbrod facilitated this webinar and was joined by one apprenticeship employer and four apprentices. They shared the inspiring details of apprenticeship and confirmed that apprenticeships are an invaluable opportunity.

In addition to these webinars held by Apprenticeship Illinois, there were roughly one hundred and sixty more events throughout the state during the week. Aon and School District 214 each hosted an event attended by the First Lady of the United States, Jill Biden. The secretaries of commerce, labor, and education joined the First Lady.

Due to the webinar series and all other events, employers and job seekers alike have been reaching out to Apprenticeship Illinois to help them find their next steps toward apprenticeship.

Illinois went all out for National Apprenticeship Week, and the numbers prove it. For events held per state, Illinois was number one. For proclamations per state, Illinois placed in the top three. Finally, overall, Illinois was number one in the country for the celebration of National Apprenticeship Week.

Second Chance Hiring

As evidence grows that the labor shortage is a long-term hindrance to a healthy talent pipeline, rather than a temporary problem caused by COVID and other exigent factors, the need to upskill workers from the existing workforce and backfill with persons from underrepresented populations grows in urgency.

One such pool of untapped talent is that of second-chance citizens, criminal justice-involved individuals who are statistically proven to be outstanding employees after having paid their debts to society. The workforce system in Illinois and the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board (IWIB) have been making progress in identifying opportunities for these returning citizens, by tapping into the research of two acknowledged experts, Jeffrey Abramowitz and Jeffrey Korzenik.

Jeffery Abramowitz is a former prisoner himself who has presented in the past to the Illinois WIOA system, primarily on his work developing adult education systems and opportunities for re-entry populations. A Juris Doctor, Abramowitz is executive director of Justice Partnerships for JEVS Human Services and the founder and director of the Looking Forward Philadelphia Reentry Program. He has been a national leader on re-entry for many years.

Jeffrey Korzenik works in finance and has literally written the book on the merits of second-chance hiring. Korzenik authored “Untapped Talent,” a book that has been purchased and distributed by Illinois workforce partners as a resource for those of us who work in the field. He has presented to the IWIB in the past as a guest arranged by The Safer Foundation and its president/CEO and IWIB member, Victor Dickson.

As workforce partners coalesce around the idea of second chance hiring, it is important to note also that there is significant work being done in the Illinois Department of Corrections to pilot programs designed to prepare soon-to-be-released prisoners for their future lives in society. Members and guests of the IWIB’s business engagement committee met earlier this Fall in Kewanee. The meeting included testimonies from a trailer manufacturer, who has been employing prisoners in a work release program. Attendees also heard from a prisoner, who was recently released and has become a regular employee of the company. The day concluded with a visit to the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center, where visitors were able to meet with prisoners, discuss their hopes and aspirations for their future lives, and offer advice for accessing the workforce system upon their release.

There is still much work to be done in developing a clear and navigable career pathway for these returning citizens, but it is clear that the value of work and self-worth is essential to the rehabilitation and re-entry process, and that this pool of potential talent is a critical arrow in Illinois’ future workforce quiver.

Thank you!

Departing IWIB Members

Thomas Hacker- Mr. Hacker is the President of C&L Supreme and was a member of the IWIB for seven years. He served as chair of the Executive Committee and the Committee Chairs Workgroup and was Co-Chair of the Business Engagement Committee.

Grailing Jones

Mr. Jones is the National Executive Director of Schneider National, Inc. He served on the IWIB for six years and was a member of the TDL Taskforce.

Kirk Gadberry

Mr. Gadberry served as the President and COO of North American Lighting from 2016-2022 and served on the IWIB for six years.

Angela Mason

Ms. Mason is the Associate Vice President of the Chicago Botanic Garden and served on the IWIB for seven years.


Mike Massie

Mr. Massie is a partner at Massie & Quick, LLC and served on the IWIB for eleven years. Mike was a co-lead for the Career Pathways Targeted Populations committee and was also the co-lead for the Disability and Returning Citizens workgroups.


Margi Schiemann

Ms. Schiemann recently retired from Nicor Gas and served on the IWIB for nine years. She was a member of the Executive Committee and a co-lead for the Career Pathways Targeted Populations committee.


Aaron Tennent

Mr. Tennant is the owner of Simplex Leasing, Inc. and served on the IWIB for six years.

IWIB 2023 Meeting Dates

(dates, times, and format subject to change)

Board Meetings (quarterly)

Thursday, March 16  / 1-3 pm - Location: TBD

Thursday, June 15 / 1-3 pm - Location: TBD

Thursday September 14 / 1-3 pm - Location: TBD

Thursday, December 7 / 1-3 pm - Location: TBD

 Executive Committee (monthly)

All meetings held via Zoom

Monday, January 9 / 10-11 am 

Monday, February 6 / 10-11 am 

Monday, March 6 / 10-11 am 

Monday, April 3 / 10-11 am 

Monday, May 1 / 10-11 am 

Monday, June 5 / 10-11 am 

Monday, July 10 / 10-11 am 

Monday, August 7 / 10-11 am 

Tuesday, September 5 / 10-11 am (moved due to Labor Day holiday)

Monday, October 2 / 10-11 am 

Monday, November 6 / 10-11 am 

Monday, December 4 / 10-11 am 

DCEO Newsletter

Sign up!

As you continue to network and develop relationships with new partners we want to encourage you to sign up to receive the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) newsletter.

Our mission: To celebrate the accomplishments of the workforce system and its clients, both employers, and job-seekers.

Our vision: To share ideas, best practices, and to fully actualize the federal and state workforce resources in order to promote economic development and transition targeted populations into meaningful careers.

Our goal: To highlight each local workforce area in Illinois and the unique regional approaches they take to workforce development, to shine a light on each business member of IWIB and contextualize their reasons for serving in this volunteer capacity, and to lift up the many inspiring stories from around the state of job seekers leveraging the workforce system.


Call for Content

Have a story you would like to share?

Have a success story you would like to showcase?


Upcoming Virtual Events and Professional Development

Network with us!

Illinois workNet Virtual Events
WIOA Professional Development
IwN Virtual Job Club on LinkedIn
Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest  Linkedin  Youtube