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Social Media Strategies for One-Stop Career Center Frontline Staff

The Heldrich Center for Workforce Development has released the latest brief in its series on using social media to support job search. Social Media for One-Stop Career Center Frontline Staff: Supporting Job Search and Improving Customer Service is specifically directed toward frontline staff in the nation's One-Stop Career Centers. The brief discusses the growth of social media in recruitment, reviews key tools, and discusses strategies for using these tools to support job seeker customers. The brief was written by Michele Martin, Savannah Barnett, and Robb C. Sewell.

Also available are a
podcast with co-author Michele Martin and a transcript of the podcast.

On December 22, 2011, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced the availability of approximately $98.5 million through the Workforce Innovation Fund (the Fund) to support innovative approaches for the design and delivery of employment and training services.  The fund invests in programs to support, evaluate and enhance workforce investment strategies, particularly for vulnerable populations.  Approximately 20 to 30 grants ranging from $1 million to $12 million are expected to be funded.  Applications under this announcement must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on March 22, 2012.

Interested parties are encouraged to review the full Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA).  Eligible applicants include state workforce agencies, local workforce investment boards and entities eligible to apply for WIA Section 166 grants, as well as consortia of each of these to a) retool service delivery strategies and/or policy and administrative systems and processes to improve outcomes for workforce system customers and b) evaluate the effectiveness of such activities. 

For detailed application information, eligibility requirements, review and selection procedures and other program requirements governing this solicitation, please review the full SGA  at  You can find technical assistance materials to support applications on the Workforce Innovation Fund website located at

A new DOL $20.6 million competition was announced on January 12 that will make 17 grants available, at approximately $1.21 million each, to organizations that provide employment and support services to help former offenders reintegrate into their communities. The grants represent the fifth generation of the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders-Adult Program.

"By supporting these employment training programs, we are fulfilling a core promise of our justice system: Those who do wrong and serve their time deserve a second chance to make a positive contribution to their families and their communities," said Secretary Hilda L. Solis. "Ultimately, these investments are turning 'tax takers' into 'tax payers,' and helping to relieve a major economic strain on state and local budgets, while also helping individuals get back on their feet and enhancing community stability."

Each year, approximately 700,000 inmates are released from state and federal prisons, and return to their communities and families.  Without assistance to make a successful transition, the majority of former offenders return to criminal activity.  In order to successfully reintegrate into their communities, it is essential that these individuals have the skills and support necessary to compete for and obtain jobs. 

A notice of the grants solicitation was published in the January 13 Federal Register.  To view a copy online, visit

Workforce Intelligence Network Responds to Southeast Michigan's Real-time Workforce Needs


New collaboration between eight community colleges, seven workforce boards and economic development partners will serve as a resource hub for talent partners including regional businesses, policy makers and others


The Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) for Southeast Michigan was launched in November 2011 with the goal of assessing the area's workforce needs and supplying metro Detroit employers, educational institutions, workforce development agencies, and policy makers with the information they need to further cultivate and transform the region's workforce.  Funded by a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the New Economy Initiative, WIN is a region-wide collaborative effort between metro Detroit's eight community colleges, seven workforce boards and economic development partners to assess and serve three primary roles for southeast Michigan:

  •  Gather, analyze and distribute real-time workforce data specific to southeast Michigan;
  • Serve as a connection point for regional business, industry and other stakeholders in regard to workforce development;
  • Research talent-related policy concerns.

For each of the above, WIN will apply a plan of action to achieve desired outcomes. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) also is providing in-kind support to the WIN initiative, including technical expertise and resources. "WIN is a strong model of regional collaboration that promises to drive our talent enhancement policies," said Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the MEDC.


"Collectively, these community colleges and workforce boards designed this concept to leverage assets to build a comprehensive and cohesive workforce and talent system across the region," said WIN Executive Director Lisa Katz. "Their investment in this network will arm economic developers, business accelerators, colleges, universities, training institutions, employers and policy makers with the data and strategies they need to help redefine the region's workforce."


WIN is working to address regional workforce issues by identifying regional skill training needs of the corporate IT sector and will also implement regional training strategies.  WIN will also develop a career pathway for the energy workforce with special focus on entry level and apprenticeship resources.  This sector is anticipating a retirement crisis among skilled workers and came to WIN to develop strategies for rebuilding the talent pipeline.


Supported the demand of the rebounding auto sector for skilled engineers and technicians with hybrid and electric vehicle expertise. WIN is working with business and government partners to bring together the combined expertise of regional workforce boards and community colleges to develop a blueprint for short and longer-term talent development.


"The Workforce Intelligence Network's regional approach creates an opportunity for educational institutions, workforce boards, and economic development partners to collaborate on a new level and provide comprehensive data for the entire region, not just one specific geographical area," said New Economy Initiative Executive Director David Egner. "Their support will help identify where resources are needed and how it will affect business development."


About the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan

The Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN) is a collaborative effort between eight community colleges, seven workforce boards and economic development partners to assess the area's workforce needs and supply metro Detroit employers, educational institutions and policy makers with the information they need to further cultivate and transform the region's workforce.


WIN is made up of the following eight community colleges:

v Macomb Community College

v Monroe County Community College

v Mott Community College

v Oakland Community College

v Schoolcraft College

v St. Clair Community College

v Washtenaw Community College

v Wayne County Community College District


And seven workforce boards:

v Career Alliance

v Detroit Workforce Development Department

v Livingston County Michigan Works!

v Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works!

v Oakland County Michigan Works!

v Southeast Michigan Community Alliance

v Washtenaw County Employment, Training and Community Services


About The New Economy Initiative

The New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan (NEI) is an innovative philanthropic effort to accelerate the transition of metro Detroit to an innovation-based economy that expands opportunity for all. Ten national, regional and local foundations have committed $100 million to this unprecedented eight-year initiative, including the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (Detroit), the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation (Southfield, Michigan), the Ford Foundation (New York), the Hudson-Webber Foundation (Detroit), the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Battle Creek, Michigan), the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (Miami), The Kresge Foundation (Troy, Michigan), the McGregor Fund (Detroit), the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (Flint, Michigan), and the Skillman Foundation (Detroit). The participating foundations are leading the implementation and governance of the Initiative. The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which initiated the collaborative, is serving as its administrative home. For more information, please visit .

Linking Workforce Development and Economic Development

In its new issue of Update, the Workforce Strategies Initiative (WSI) of the Aspen Institute discusses the capacities workforce development programs need to better align their strategies with economic development in their local labor market. The publication uses examples from three cities - Louisville, KY; Cleveland, OH; and Pittsburgh, PA - where workforce leaders worked with industry representatives, government, and others to support their local industry and connect their worker constituencies to opportunities created by economic development activities.  To read the issue, go to

Corporate Voices for Working Families has released four new micro-business cases documenting the considerable benefits gained when employers, community colleges, and community organizations forge close partnerships to support working Americans. Model efforts like these are helping supply employers with the skilled talent they need, while creating promising career opportunities for Americans who urgently need them in a changing and challenging 21st-century economy.


The new profiles feature the efforts of three diverse employers who are building a talent pipeline of current and future employees.

  • AREVA, a global energy corporation, partners with Central Virginia Community College, on a training program through which employees pursue their higher education while working at the company.
  • Bright Horizons Family Solutions LLC, the world's top provider of employer-sponsored child care, early education, and work-life solutions, worked with an educational publishing company to develop an online training program through which employees earn the industry's benchmark child-development credential.
  • McDonald's, a leading global foodservice retailer, invests in executive talent development through its innovative Hamburger University (HU) and its network of regional training centers and HU campuses around the world. McDonald's worked with the American Council on Education to gain credit recommendation for much of its training - making it one of only a dozen Fortune 500 companies to receive college credit for the training it provides to its employeers.  Moreover, through its alliance with some 15 higher education institutions, the company ensures that successful HU students can translate their training into academic credits toward their associate or bachelor's degrees.   

A fourth micro-business case spotlights the efforts of a popular retailer that is creating first-time training opportunities for disadvantaged youth:

  • Gap Inc., a leading global specialty retailer, partners with community organizations to support This Way Ahead, a program providing career exploration, job readiness training, and paid internships for young adults at Gap and Old Navy stores.

"Employer partnerships with community colleges and local organizations are playing a key role in providing the supports that today's working learners-often low-income young adults-need to gain valuable skills, pursue their education, and advance up the career ladder," said Donna Klein, Corporate Voices' Executive Chair and CEO.


The first three profiles, part of a series published within Corporate Voices' ongoing Learn & Earn initiative, are available online.


The Gap Inc. profile, also part of a series of best-practice micro-cases focused on Enterprising Pathways for underserved youth, may be found here.


Corporate Voices' Learn & Earn initiative is made possible through the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its Enterprising Pathways research is made possible with the generous support of New Options, a project of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Highmark awards $2M in workforce development grants

Highmark Inc. on Tuesday announced $2 million in career development and job training funding for 25 organizations across the state, including five in Central Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh-based insurer grants the funding through its Local Workforce Initiative, created to recognize organizations demonstrating an impact in areas with minority, disabled, veteran or displaced worker populations, according to a news release.

"We know that there are often barriers that prohibit individuals from obtaining employment, and to create a vibrant and healthy community, individuals need access to sustainable employment," Dan Onorato,
Highmark executive vice president of chief external affairs and communications officer, said in a statement. "Through this program, communities where we do business will have the necessary funding to address this pressing issue."

Midstate programs receiving funding are:

  • Harrisburg Area Community College Foundation, $100,000 to support disadvantaged youth in becoming work-ready and trained for in-demand jobs in manufacturing and health care.
  • Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board, $120,000 to connect minority youth with apprenticeships in skilled building trades.
  • Lancaster-Lebanon Education Foundation, $82,000 to help low-income, minority youth to obtain their general education development (GED) degree and provide leadership development, guidance and job training for health care and manufacturing fields.
  • United Way of the Capital Region, $187,000 to train disadvantaged young adults for jobs at businesses participating in a south central manufacturing and utility training consortia; to develop internships and apprenticeships for disadvantaged youth leading to jobs in utility and construction fields.
  • YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, $75,000 to offer domestic violence victims, ex-offenders and low-income, disadvantaged youth employment training, placement services, transportation assistance and general education classes.

The grants are provided through donor-adviced charitable funds via The Pittsburgh Foundation, Harrisburg-based The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, Lehigh Valley Community Foundation and The Erie Community Foundation


Finding jobs in this economy can be difficult but for the past year, the Workforce Development Center in Pewaukee, WI has received extra help from the federal AmeriCorps VISTA program.

The Workforce Development Center provides support for people looking for jobs and employers looking for workers. 

Their first VISTA was Traci Higgs, who completed her year of service last month. Norris credits Higgs for strengthening or establishing a relationship with other agencies throughout the community, creating a one-stop resource area for customers to the center, holding classes for job seekers and developing opportunities for students and interns to help with the program, in addition to other accomplishments.

VISTA member Dawn Vandenhouten, who just started her year with the center, says Higgs is a hard act to follow.

Vandenhouten may have a secret weapon, though.

Three years ago and after 28 years in the workforce, she was laid off.

“I was that person,” she said. “You feel like the floor is falling out beneath you. It’s a complicated process to re-invent yourself after that.”

Vandenhouten has worked for the past three years finishing her degree and polishing her job skills with the help of the center. She graduated with a degree in graphic design last May. The idea of a year of service was intriguing.

“I think it’s beneficial to give back in your life,” Vandenhouten said. “It’s a year of service but helps me pull together some of my other skills. I can help other people in my situation hopefully, and build on that. I’m sure I’ll glean a lot of good things in own my life, too.”

A woman she met during her first week on the job sticks in her mind. While helping in the resume building lab, Vandenhouten was asked to help a customer set up an email account for sending resumes.

The 74-year-old woman needed a job.

“That impacted me. There are so many people that should be sitting back enjoying retirement but who need to get a job to sustain their lives,” Vandenhouten said.  “They’re almost a forgotten generation but they’re out there. They need to be working too. And we’re all competing for the jobs.”

Encompassed in one building are eight different agencies that can help job searchers with staff who administer any number of different programs, including a career center, co-op program, public support and special education programs.

The increased demand for their programs when the economy took a turn for the worse in 2009 prompted the organization to get creative, according to Beth Norris, operations coordinator, at the Workforce Development Center.

“At the inception of the project, the center was experiencing record demand,” Norris said. “Our traffic flow was reaching 40,000 visits.”

“We hit that peak demand at the same time public funding for all the services in our building was going down. That led us say how can we extend, how can we help fill those gaps and voids where we’re challenged in meeting the needs of folks who are seeking services?” Norris said.

Enter the AmeriCorps VISTA program, a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or local government agency, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, strengthen community groups, and more, according to the AmeriCorps VISTA website.

“It seemed like a good fit for us to see if we could use an AmeriCorps VISTA person to help us mobilize resources and look for creative ways to address unmet needs,” Norris said. “That’s what VISTAs do. They kind of bring creative energy to community needs.”

Weathering the recession

The Workforce Development Center offers a variety of services for job seekers:  career exploration, training and education, job search and placement, and resources for economic support, if necessary.

“Our goal is a person comes in the door and we just help them,” Norris said. “An employer needs a worker, and we help them find that person that they need.”

The job seekers are coming from different of groups of people – middle class, lower class and upper class.

“If there was ever a sense that we serve only one group of people, that vanished once the economy changed,” Norris said. “So there are highly educated people, people with long work histories, our neighbors, our friends, our family, coming through the door.”

One thing that everyone should do, employed or not, is work to improve their computer and job skills in case something unexpected happens, according to Norris.

“No one is ever done with what they need to learn. Everyone should consider themselves in a job transition, even if they have a job,” she said.

Signs of hope

There are signs of hope, though, for job seekers.

“We have been energized in the last year or so compared to a couple of years ago. We are seeing people get jobs, we seeing employers that are looking for people,” Norris said, noting that they are also seeing fewer companies going through lay-offs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Waukesha County dropped from 6.2 to 5.9 from October 2010 to October 2011. The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force.

Also, according to Norris, the current workforce development system is working better than it ever has. The model of having multiple agencies under one roof providing complementary services has never been more relevant.

“Because we’ve seen people who have lost their job after a long time being a taxpaying, stable, working citizens who because of the economy, the length of time to gain re-employment and the need to update skills, have needed to use some of the supportive services as a very temporary solution,” she said.

Plus with the balance between county, state, federal and educational services, all the key leaders in our economy and community in the building, she said.

“It feels like it’s been these last couple of years that it’s really had a chance to be there for folks coming through the door,” she said.


From Fast Food to Fine Dining: A Career Path or Dead End?


As workforce development professionals look to connect people to training and jobs, they have often overlooked industries considered "low-skill, low-wage," such as the restaurant sector.  Yet, there are good jobs in restaurants, with living wages and decent benefits, although admittedly these are not the majority.  Importantly, however, employment in this industry is growing - food services establishments added over 530,000 jobs in the past year.  


On March 7th, the Aspen Institute's Workforce Strategies Initiative hosted an event, From Fast Food to Fine Dining: A Discussion on Work in the Restaurant Industry, which explored the challenges faced by restaurant workers, and low-wage workers in general, as well as ideas for how jobs and opportunities in the sector could be improved. The event, was the first in a series of discussions AspenWSI is hosting this year in a series titled, Reinventing Low-Wage Work: Ideas That Can Work for Employees, Employers and the Economy. Wednesday's discussion featured Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Saru Jayaraman, Executive Director of ROC-United, Helen Neuborne, Director of Quality Employment at the Ford Foundation, John Schmitt, Senior Economist of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets and restaurateur. The discussion was moderated by Peter Edelman, Professor of Law at Georgetown University.


The videotaped recording from that event and a short document distributed at the event that provides an overview of the restaurant workforce in the U.S. are now available.


What do you think?

Want to learn more about building career skills?  A new report by Corporate Voice for Working Families examines employers embracing training for their workers.

Through case studies and concrete metrics, Why Companies Invest in 'Grow Your Own' Talent Development Models details how several respected American employers invest in education, training and the basic workforce readiness of their employees, with a particular focus on the needs of entry-level and lower-skilled associates. The companies studied - including CVS/Caremark, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. - took different approaches to their training programs, and  the report outlines how their investments have paid off in a range of valuable dividends.  To download the report, go to



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