What is Central Iowa Works?
Central Iowa Works fits into a new category of workforce development program – workforce intermediaries. Workforce intermediaries are local partnerships that bring together employers and workers, public and private funding streams, and relevant partners to create and implement pathways to career advancement and employment. Workforce Intermediaries integrate a wide variety of resources, build partnerships with other providers, and focus on achieving agreed-upon outcomes.
The goal of Central Iowa Works (CIW) is to close the skills gap in central Iowa. Iowa has a shortage of employees to fill the existing middle skills jobs in our state. CIW meets the needs of employers by helping them recruit and hire qualified workers while at the same time addressing the needs of job seekers by helping them get trained and hired for real jobs with pathways for growth.
CIW is made up of a variety of components, including a Funding Collaborative, Job Developers Network, Workforce Partnerships, Apprenticeships, formal education programs, employer participation, participant services, policies and systems change, partnerships with community organizations, and a Career Pathways Program.
Employers are the driving force of CIW. They assume many roles including projecting short-term labor force needs, curriculum development for training programs, serving as guest instructors during training, conducting mock interviews with job seekers, recognizing the credentials as appropriate job training, providing advocacy for workforce legislative changes, guaranteeing an interview to anyone who has completed many certificate programs and ultimately hiring the individuals trained through CIW.
Services to participants
This area of assistance offers supports that program participants might need to be successful, including case management, housing assistance, or food assistance. These services are provided through referrals within the CIW network. CIW Job Developers do not offer digital literacy, so CIW offers those classes directly.
CIW is assisting individuals to obtain family-sustaining employment by connecting low-income people to job training and employment opportunities.
- Working with employers to align workforce training with industry needs
- Investing in targeted and innovative programs that help low-income adults receive postsecondary credentials
- Supporting programs that help workers get trained and advance in their fields.
CIW brings innovation to workforce services by measuring performance, focusing on outcomes, achieving goals, and anticipating problems rather than reacting to them. Because of its structure, mission, and role in workforce development, CIW is able to try new approaches to training and job placement and share the findings from these efforts with other practitioners.
Presently CIW is engaged in innovative efforts in three areas:
- Improving employment outcomes for youth (ages 18-24) by developing a foundational employment preparation program utilizing workplace readiness, digital literacy, workplace simulation, and internships to better prepare young workers for employment. This project will launch in September 2014.
- Utilization of simulation to enhance the workplace readiness of job seekers. Workplace simulation is effective because it gives participants the opportunity to practice new skills/habits where it’s “safe”, and where they can learn from their mistakes, and try new approaches. CIW purchased a workplace simulation program and started using it in August 2014.
- Studying the feasibility of developing an Alternative Staffing Organization (ASO). An ASO is an employment strategy that uses a temporary staffing business model coupled with supportive services to help people with obstacles to employment enter and advance in the workforce. CIW has contracted with the ICA group to complete this study by October 1, 2014.
How is Central Iowa Works Configured?
CIW has two staff members (Central Iowa Works Site Director and Central Iowa Works Workforce Strategist.) These individuals have office space at United Way of Central Iowa (United Way) and report to the co-chairs of the Funding Collaborative, United Way’s Chief Community Impact Officer and the Vice-President of Unity Point Health. United Way is also the fiscal agent for CIW and provides administrative oversight, including budget reporting. Over 90 other partners carry out CIW’s mission and guide its work, including 31 businesses, 5 industry representatives, 12 education and training providers, and 43 service providers.
CIW is a National Fund for Workforce Solutions Site
Since 2011, Central Iowa Works has been a part of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions effort. The mission of the national network, which promotes economic opportunity and prosperous communities through investment and innovation, is to drive policies, and investments that enable workers to succeed in good jobs, provide employers with a skilled workforce, and build more prosperous communities. 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.