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The Workforce Connection is a business led board which serves as the regional resource for workforce development in Boone, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties in Northern Illinois.

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Data from Program Year 2020
July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021

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Most recent unemployment and labor force information, including employment by industry, updated monthly.

News & Testimonials

Giving Thanks and Closing Out | Final Episode

Giving Thanks and Closing Out | Final Episode

On this final episode, host Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones is joined by Workforce Wisdom’s editor and producer, Amanda Sink, to close out the series. Lisa sits in the interviewee seat for a change, reflecting on her career, accomplishments at The Workforce Connection (TWC) over the past four years, discussing the impact of the pandemic on equity, and Lisa’s own workforce wisdom as she closes out her chapter at TWC.

Dr. Bly-Jones has been a true change agent for equity, and has taken our organization to new heights. We are so appreciative of all her hard work and the impact she has made on our region’s workforce. We wish her all the best in her new endeavor! She will be missed!

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Request for Bid: Executive Director Search

Request for Bid: Executive Director Search

The Workforce Connection, Inc. (TWC), the local workforce board serving Boone, Stephenson, and Winnebago Counties, is soliciting bids from agencies with experience in successfully conducting executive searches in the Rockford area in the search for an Executive Director for The Workforce Connection.

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The Workforce Connection and AAR Announce EAGLE Sheet Metal Apprenticeship Program for Career-Seekers

The Workforce Connection and AAR Announce EAGLE Sheet Metal Apprenticeship Program for Career-Seekers

The Workforce Connection (TWC), the region’s dedicated workforce development resource, and AAR announced a new Apprenticeship program for the region. The EAGLE Sheet Metal Apprenticeship combines classroom training with paid work experience to ensure students are ready for employment at AAR’s state of the art facility and a career in aviation maintenance.

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The Workforce Connection Board

Your Region’s Workforce Board

Serving Boone, Stephenson, and Winnebago Counties in Northern Illinois

Workforce Wisdom Podcast

Giving Thanks and Closing Out | Final Episode

On this final episode, host Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones is joined by Workforce Wisdom’s editor and producer, Amanda Sink, to close out the series. Lisa sits in the interviewee seat for a change, reflecting on her career, accomplishments at The Workforce Connection (TWC) over the past four years, discussing the impact of the pandemic on equity, and Lisa’s own workforce wisdom as she closes out her chapter at TWC.

Dr. Bly-Jones has been a true change agent for equity, and has taken our organization to new heights. We are so appreciative of all her hard work and the impact she has made on our region’s workforce. We wish her all the best in her new endeavor! She will be missed!

Law Enforcement Series – Andre Taylor

To kick off this new season of Workforce Wisdom, Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones is speaking with career professionals in law enforcement as a series of episodes. In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is speaking with Andre Taylor, a current member of the U.S. Army and future police officer.

Season Two Closing: Stepping Up As Bold Leaders

Can you believe the final episode of season two is already here? Don’t worry – we will be back just after Labor Day, but to close this season out, we wanted to recap the tremendous leaders I interviewed this season who embody the theme of “Stepping Up”. The past year+ has been an emotional and uniquely challenging year, from racial inequity to the new workforce trends affecting women and wages.

Taking the Risk to Listen and Lead with Keller Williams Realty | Episode 209

In this episode, Lisa Bly-Jones, Ed.D. speaks with the Social Equity Committee of Keller Williams Realty Signature in Illinois and Wisconsin. This rock-star team making equity strides in the real estate industry consists of Toni VanderHayden, Nastasia ‘Staci’ Brown, Joey Krutza, and Bryant Chandler.

Follow Your Joy, Passions, and Fulfillments | Episode 208

Lisa Bly-Jones, Ed.D. speaks with Sharon Bush, the Executive Director of Grand Victoria Foundation, only the second person to lead the Foundation in its 20-year industry. She has over 20 years of nonprofit and business experience.

Take Advantage of Every Opportunity You Can | Episode 207

In this episode, Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones speaks with Fred DeLaRosa, General Manager of Embassy Suites Rockford, about the hospitality industry before and amid the pandemic, how Embassy Suites remains competitive with lodging options like Airbnb, and insight into his own career pathway and motivation. Fred has over 20 years of experience in the industry and with the Embassy Suites brand, serving various roles throughout his career.

Stepping Up with Representative Dave Vella | Episode 206

In this episode, Lisa M. Bly-Jones, Ed.D. speaks with Illinois State Representative for the 68th District, Dave Vella, who was recently elected to serve after narrowly winning “in a district (he) wasn’t really supposed to win”, as he put it.

A Conversation with Eliminate Racism 815 | Episode 205

In this special episode, Lisa M. Bly-Jones, Ed.D. speaks with Dick Rundall of Eliminate Racism 815, a non-profit organization in the Rockford, Illinois area devoted to eliminating racism through education, advocacy, and partnerships. Through the interview, Dr. Bly-Jones learns more about Eliminate Racism 815: their mission, their accomplishments, and how our two organizations can partner together to make change to the economic mobility in our community.

Voices of Female Leaders: Part Two | Episode 204

In the conclusion of our two-part series, Lisa M. Bly-Jones, Ed.D. speaks with four of The Workforce Connection’s women Board of Directors members, all of which have earned a key spot as a leader for their organization. Featuring interviews with Pamela Lopez-Fettes of Growth Dimensions, Suzanne Fisher of OSF Healthcare, Michelle Cassaro of the Chicago-Rockford International Airport, and Karen Brown of Highland Community College, these incredible and empowering women share their pieces of wisdom – in a general sense and what they would share with aspiring female leaders.

Voices of Female Leaders: Part One | Episode 203

In this first of two-part series, Lisa M. Bly-Jones, Ed.D. speaks with three of The Workforce Connection’s women Board of Directors members, all of which have earned a key spot as a leader for their organization. These incredible and empowering women share their pieces of wisdom – in a general sense and what they would share with aspiring female leaders.

Be Your Authentic Self | Episode 202

In this episode, Lisa Bly-Jones, Ed.D. speaks with Sara Dorner, President of Rockford United Labor AFL-CIO. She is the first woman President in the organization’s 66 year history. In addition to being the President of Rockford United Labor AFL-CIO, Sara is a labor representative with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Culture is Everything | Episode 201

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones shares clips from “Building a Business Case for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” – an employer forum we hosted featuring speaker Dr. Sean Bailey. Mentioning her vision when applying for the grant for the employer forum series, Dr. Bly-Jones ties her vision with a poem from Lisa Nichols titled “The Dream Pt. 2”.

Showing Up and Stepping Up As Bold Leaders

To kick off this second season, Lisa curates the most striking words of wisdom from conversations last season. While she loved all of the interviews, she selected workforce wisdom clips that resonated with her the most, and further stressed the need to show up and step as bold leaders in 2021.

Giving Thanks in 2020 and Optimistically Looking to 2021

In this short episode, Lisa reflects on the challenges 2020 has presented us all, what gives her hope for the next year, and a moment of giving thanks. And while we are closing out for the year, be sure to keep an eye out for our return in 2021 on February 3rd!

Equity is Our Centerpiece Now | Episode 22

In this episode of the Workforce Wisdom podcast, Dr. Bly-Jones is speaking with Lisa Medellin. Lisa serves as Director of Programs for Healthcare Georgia Foundation and is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at the Foundation. She oversees the Foundation’s strategic grant making programs, management of program staff, and programmatic partnerships for the foundation.

You Can’t Sprint All the Time | Manufacturing Month Pt. 2 | Episode 21

October is Manufacturing Month, so in this episode of the Workforce Wisdom podcast, Dr. Bly-Jones is speaking with Andy Bittman, General Manager for IMA Automation North America, who has been with the company since 2017.

Andy has been involved in product development and manufacturing tests and assembly equipment development, including class 3 medical devices, aerospace products, and industrial products for the past 25 years. He has a Business of Science and Electrical Engineering degree from Marquette University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Tapping Into Your Internal Talent / Manufacturing Month | Episode 20

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is speaking with Terry Roche, President of Northern Precision Plastics, which is located in Belvidere, Illinois, approximately 30 minutes northwest of Chicago. Mr. Roche is an operationally focused executive who has led mid-sized industrial manufacturing companies as large as $125 million in revenue. He earned his B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering, cum laude, from Texas ANM University, and his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. During Manufacturing month, we hear from Terry about his day-to-day and what he loves about his industry.

Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month | Episode 19

Ms. Aranda-Suh leads the National Latino Education Institute (formerly Spanish Coalition for Jobs, Inc.) as its Executive Director since 2008. The National Latino Education Institute (NLEI) is a nonprofit and nationally accredited. The organization started in the mid-60s and incorporated in Chicago in 1972. NLEI’s mission is to advance our community’s economic independence through market and results-driven education, training, employment and advocacy.

Celebrating Workforce Development Month | Episode 18

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is speaking with Amanda M. Sink, Board Strategic Initiatives Manager for The Workforce Connection and Editor/Producer of Workforce Wisdom. In honor of Workforce Development, it seemed most appropriate to close out September with a poignant discussion on the world of workforce from the lenses of professionals with various experience.

The Human-Centered Approach to Innovation | Episode 17

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is speaking with Dr. Paige Niehaus, the Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Innovation Office at Wayne County Community College District in Detroit Michigan.

Dr Niehaus is a passionate leader with 29 years of community college experience. Prior to her current role, she was the Director for Workforce Development at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois. As the Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of the Design Center of WCCCD, she has a leadership role in growing the district’s innovation and entrepreneurial capacity.

Caring About the Work You Do Makes It Easy to Do a Great Job | Episode 16

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is speaking with Cathy Cornelius, Board Assistant for The Workforce Connection board. The two speak about leadership and the ability to lead from any position in the organization.

As the Board Assistant, Cathy works with Elected Officials from three counties, a Mayor, Executives from the business community, college Presidents, other government leaders, as well as the Executive Director of The Workforce Connection. 

Don’t Be Afraid of Technology | Episode 15

In this episode, Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones is interviewing Dan White, Board Fiscal Manager at The Workforce Connection. Dan has over 25 years of accounting experience, on top of 20 years of IT experience. Using his analytical skills and critical thinking, Dan was able to transition the board staff – within less than a week – to being fully functional in a remote capacity.

Leading in Education: Is School Out for COVID? | Episode 14

In this week’s episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is interviewing Scott Bloomquist, the Regional Superintendent for Boone and Winnebago counties in Illinois. Scott has over 20 years leadership experience and began his leadership development in college when he founded and served as President of the the local chapter of FCA at Concordia University in St. Paul Minnesota.

Leading with Two Titles: Mom and CEO with Karin Norington-Reaves | Episode 13

Karin M. Norington-Reaves is a lifelong public servant with more than 25 years of experience in education, law, advocacy, community, and workforce development. In 2012, Karin became the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) upon her appointment by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Racial Equity in Workforce | Episode 12

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is speaking with Amanda Cage, Chief Executive Officer for National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS). NFWS is a national network promoting economic opportunity and prosperous communities through investment and innovation. Based in Washington D.C., the National Fund partners with philanthropy, employers, workers, public and private community organizations, and more than 30 regional collaboratives to invest in skills, improve systems, and generate good jobs.

Workforce Development: Rising to the Calling with Bob Lanter| Episode 11

Bob Lanter, Executive Director of the California Workforce Association, is a leader in workforce strategy and the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for the state of California. Bob has worked almost two decades in the public sector and non-profit industry, with experience in the field of workforce development and job training. He has held various positions in local workforce investment systems from case manager to the Executive Director of the Contra Costa County Workforce Board. He gained national/federal experience working for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration as a Federal Project Officer.

Higher Education, Collaboration, and Public Administration | Episode 10

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is joined by Dr. Rena Cotsones, Associate Vice President of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development for Northern Illinois University (NIU). In her role, Rena works with regional partners to create and implement collaborative approaches to advancing education, economic development, workforce development, and innovation initiatives in northern Illinois and Chicagoland. 

Dr. Bly-Jones and Dr. Cotsones discuss working in higher education, the benefits and methods of effective collaboration, and how Rena made her steps to her current position, modeling after her father. 

Employment and Labor Law-Management | Episode 09

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is joined by Roberta (Bobbie) Holzwarth, Attorney at HolmstromKennedy, and serves as the Chair of the firm’s Employment & Labor Group. Bobbie represents employers in various employment and labor matters, including: counseling in complex ADA, EEO, FMLA and other workplace matters, sexual harassment investigations and training, negotiation of collective bargaining agreements, preparation of employment and no-compete agreements, and the preparation and review of employee handbooks and personnel policies. Bobbie also represents employers and employee welfare benefit plans in connection with employee benefit matters.

Legislating for the Bold and the Vibrant | Episode 08

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is joined by State Representative Maurice West to discuss his rise in politics, public access to technology, and much more. Rep. West is serving his first term representing the 67th House District in Rockford, IL. and lives by the motto of “serving the bold and the vibrant”.

There’s No Health Without Mental Health | Episode 07

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is joined by Danielle Angileri, Executive Director of the Northern Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Northern Illinois. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Danielle discusses the care-giving stresses, the rising levels of domestic violence, NAMI’s mission, and the affect loneliness has on one’s self.

A Mayor’s Journey Through Crisis| Episode 06

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is joined by Mayor Thomas McNamara. Elected in 2017, Mayor McNamara serves Rockford, Illinois and got his start as a politician serving as alderman of Rockford’s 3rd ward. Throughout the episode, McNamara shares his insights into government, leading through crisis, wisdom he received from his father – former Mayor of Rockford, Illinois – and the value of the people around you.

The Leaders of Workforce Development | Episode 05

In this episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is joined by President and CEO of the National Association of Workforce Board (NAWB), Ron Painter. As leaders in workforce development, the two discuss the value of workforce boards, the survival of small businesses amid a pandemic, and ongoing conversations on The Hill.

One of Many Unsung Heroes: Food Processing Manufacturing | Episode 04

In this episode, Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones is joined by Ed Wood, Vice President of Human Resources for Berner Food and Beverage, to discuss his workforce sector: food processing manufacturing.

Ed discusses the many ways HR keeps employees top of the mind, the way his sector is responding amid COVID-19, and of course, his piece of workforce wisdom.

Understanding History to Influence the Future | Episode 03

In this episode, Melinda Mack, Executive Director for New York’s Workforce Association (NYATEP) joins to discuss the elements pertinent to workforce and business strategy during COVID, the future of the workforce and the potential positive impacts on low-wage earning workers.

You will hear the epitome of workforce wisdom, as Melinda dives right into some of the most provoking words of advice she has received and offers as a professional leader in her field. 

Leading in Nonprofits | Episode 02

In this episode, Pam Clark Reidenbach from Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE) joins to discuss the COVID-19 impact on the nonprofit sector of the workforce. Pam has given the majority of her adult career to the service of others and leads training sessions for those interested in pursuing a career in philanthropy.

Workforce Now and Later Post COVID-19 | Episode 01

Workforce Wisdom is a podcast brought to you by The Workforce Connection Board. In every episode, Dr. Lisa M. Bly-Jones interviews leaders and professionals across the workforce, informing your path to career success. In this pilot episode, Dr. Bly-Jones is joined by Board Strategic Initiatives Manager, Amanda M. Sink. The two discuss the impacts of coronavirus on businesses, professional teams, and how this may shape the future of our workforce.

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The Workforce Connection– an Illinois WorkNet Center and partner in the American Job Center network. This program is funded by The Workforce Connection, Inc., Il Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, and the U.S. Department of Labor. The Workforce Connection is an equal opportunity employer/program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities. All voice telephone numbers on this website may be reached by persons using TTY/TDD equipment by calling TTY (800) 526-0844 or 711. Contact the Equal Opportunity Officer at 815-395-6626. This program is subject to the provisions of the “Jobs for Veteran’s Act” Public Law 107-288, which provides priority of services to veterans and spouses of certain veterans.

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