For 20 years the Center of Workforce Innovations (CWI) in Valparaiso has been working to provide demand-driven workforce solutions, helping to sustain and grow the economy while creating a better future for their clients. CWI serves as staff to the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board and provides oversight of nine WorkOne centers. Each center provides no-cost career and employment assistance for job seekers, employers, and young adults.
CWI knows that demand for various occupations fluctuates over time. The organization relies on intel received from employers and market research, providing training for in-demand skills in an ever-changing market.
“We are constantly reinventing paths for our clients based on the incoming information we receive from employer intelligence,” said Natalie Aponte, WorkOne Skills Training Manager. “We are always connecting with employers to learn exactly what type of skills they are in need of, and from there we make sure that we are able to offer those certifications for the positions they’re hiring for.”
“We do a lot of collaborating with outside entities to develop our curriculum as needed,” added Shelley Bishop, Regional WorkOne Manager. “We want our clients to come in here knowing that they will leave with the skills necessary to move forward with their career and better their lives.”
One industry WorkOne offers training for is manufacturing, including certifications in welding, electrical maintenance, and production tech.
“Once they complete our trainings, most of our clients can start in their area of expertise, earning anywhere from 12 and 15 dollars an hour,” Aponte said. “These programs can change peoples’ lives, particularly for families that might not have a current income, or a single parent struggling to make ends meet.”
The organization’s services go beyond just manufacturing. “We’ve also served the areas of healthcare, transportation, distribution and logistics, and have assisted with nursing classes at Ivy Tech, Ancilla College, and University of St. Francis,” Bishop said. “Our classes run all year round for all of our programs, so we can provide that option for clients whenever they need it.”
CWI also offers scholarships for short-term trainings that lead to certification or a credential.
“Our Career Advisors assess the customer’s career pathway and needs, then identify the correct funding source for the customer’s training payment. In order to pay for these trainings, the class would need to lead to a job in demand and be approved as a provider,” Bishop said. “We also have specialized funding available for individuals that have been unemployed for over 26 weeks due to COVID-19.”
CWI has continued to provide WorkOne services during the pandemic, adapting quickly to unprecedented challenges and finding ways to innovate that retain client outreach and opportunities for success.
“We have pieces in place now that we did not use before,” Bishop said. “We can now do complete enrollment virtually and conduct virtual workshops and hiring events, things that even as time goes by we will continue to utilize. We’ve been able to integrate what we offer clients in person into a largely online format, and that is incredible.”
In the two decades that CWI has been serving job seekers through the WorkOne system, the organization has delivered more than a few success stories. Bishop recalled a recent celebration with a client.
“When we first reopened in June, we had a gentleman come into the office to do vouchers. Talking with him I found out that his company had shut down, and I immediately introduced him to a career advisor. Within a day he was earning a better living than he had thought possible before coming to us,” Bishop said. “To be in the office and hear him say, ‘I got the job, this changed my life,’ and to see the excitement on his face–that is the true reward of what we do here.”
For information about CWI, visit https://cwicorp.com/.