On Friday, April 29, 2022, the Rock Valley College Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) hosted the inaugural Eagle Awards of Excellence. The event honored students, faculty, staff, and community partners for their commitment and dedication to promoting a campus community that embodies trust, equity, and a sense of belonging. In total, 60 individuals were nominated by students, faculty, and staff, culminating in recognizing these award categories: outstanding student(s), outstanding faculty, outstanding staff, community partner, and distinguished service.

The Workforce Connection (TWC) was nominated and awarded as a community partner for “incorporat(ing) DEI within their mission and practices. They have a proven track record of partnering with RVC to identify barriers and create access and opportunities for all students. They are a key partner as we look at connecting with other organizations to spread the word about access and opportunity at RVC”.

“TWC recognizes the economic, societal and organizational benefits of workforce diversity and inclusion. We are committed to advocating and supporting equitable access to career and employment opportunities and partnering with employers to create equity within their workplaces for all in our region. TWC is sincerely grateful for our partnership with RVC. We appreciate this recognition and thank the many people who do this important work everyday,” said Karen Brown, Chair of TWC’s Human Resources committee and whom spearheaded equity efforts on behalf of the Board.

In addition to providing equitable access to workforce services for diverse populations in our region with varying barriers, TWC has also implemented DEI strategies in alignment with their statement of equity. In 2020, TWC provided over 60 employers across the tri-county region with access to virtual DEI workshops at no-cost, funded by a grant received from the Northwest Illinois United Way.

In 2021, TWC procured an audit company to evaluate which populations are served through TWC’s One-Stop, and ensure that aligns with the targeted populations within the regional and local workforce plan. In one example, the audit found that one of the highest served demographics include re-entry citizens (those that have justice involvement), which was identified as a population in signficant need of workforce services to access equitable employment opportunities.

“The Workforce Connection is proud of this recognition and our work to engage individuals in the community and provide effective and equitable outcomes that improve and enhance our entire community. We are committed to continuing to learn, grow, and improve our efforts in this area,” stated Courtney Geiger, Director of Career Services for The Workforce Connection’s One-Stop Center.

Gina Caronna, Executive Director, expanded on TWC’s gratitude stating, “The Workforce Connection (TWC) will continue to advocate to businesses the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, and collaborate with community partners to provide DEI resources. TWC congratulates all other nominees and award winners, extends gratitude to Rock Valley College for emphasizing this work for the Rockford region and to Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones, former executive director of TWC for her leadership.”