According to the Ill. Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) combines federally-funded job training programs in Illinois into a “workforce development” system where individuals can find a job or train for a new career.
You’ve probably heard this term used, but never understood it. It’s the reason that many states, including Illinois, have adopted the “one-stop delivery system” approach, so you can go to one location in your area for unemployment questions, employment services, workshops, etc. These are known as Illinois workNet Centers, and they serve Local Workforce Investment Areas (LWIAs), of which there are 26 in Illinois.
The greater Rockford area is governed by the Boone and Winnebago Counties WIA Board. John Strandin, Public Relations Manager for the Workforce Investment Board, works diligently to provide info and links on the local website, www.theworkforceconnection.org . From there you can navigate to various services, including the approved WIA training sites in the area, and the list of approved training courses.
The object of WIA and other funded training programs is to return the job seeker to work as quickly as possible. Many factors are taken into consideration, and you can qualify by either financial consideration (simply put, below a certain level of income) or by being a “displaced worker in a declining industry”. As usual, this is subject to lots of statistics and calculations, and changes periodically. I qualified in the latter category. It is based on the local/state economy and numbers, so others in other states and situations may qualify for different training and opportunities.
If you’d like to make a job change, or obtain more training in a given area, you need to begin as soon as possible. Do not wait. Some programs only start once during the school year; others, you can begin taking courses whenever the next semester or class starts. It’s up to YOU to do your homework and research on programs, training, and what you’d like to do. Do NOT expect the busy staff at the workNet center to do this for you. There are several areas of the above mentioned site that will help you, and the resource center at your local office can help point you in the right direction to begin searching and determining what could be right for you. You can also pick up the WIA application packet at the resource center. You may have to attend an actual orientation session to determine your need for an application packet.
Once you’ve done your research and picked up a packet to apply, you’ll be expected to do informational interviews with people in your chosen field, search and furnish job ads for jobs relating to this training, and complete the application based on the chosen approved WIA training facility you want to attend. This may sound complicated, but it’s not. It’s very straightforward, with additional websites and information furnished to help you complete much of it. You’ll also be evaluated for your eligibility for WIA, then evaluated and approved for the training. THERE’S A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ELIGIBILITY and APPROVAL. By being eligible for WIA, you’re actually going to be pleasantly surprised that you will be getting additional career counseling, job coaching and support, etc., whether you are approved for a training program or not.
My career advisor wisely counseled me on what courses or certificates to consider. At her urging, I discovered a more in-depth program better suited to my ultimate goals. In certain positions and trades, it’s more important to have a certification (usually an additional test after the courses), than a degree. Some programs will require additional OJT time before you can take the certification test, and some you can get a waiver to take directly. This DOES NOT guarantee you a job, but you’ll have additional training in an industry with a better outcome than the one you were in. This can open doors for you in updated technology areas you couldn’t afford to do otherwise. And, hopefully you’ll be able to network within the new industry during your coursework and have job leads – or a job- before you’re even done.