News & Media

Jennifer Riggenbach Column: Investing in Local Workers Pays Off

Thu. Apr 5, 2012

By: Jennifer Riggenbach

What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you do?

For most of us, our identity has been defined by the job we are paid to do. In recent years, many of our neighbors have been faced with job loss or lack of opportunity to gain a first job. Respondents to the recent community survey, coordinated by Incourage Community Foundation, validate that we are all concerned about jobs in our community and recognize new skills are essential for all workers.

Thanks to the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune and Workforce Central Funders, you have an opportunity to be part of the solution and help those in our community who want a job, get a job and keep a job. We are pleased to be partnering with the Daily Tribune on the Skilled for Success Campaign.

Even in this economic climate of high unemployment rates—Wood County’s unemployment rate for February 2012 was 8.1 percent—employers are crying for skilled workers. One local employer shared an example of receiving 300 applications for 15 openings, interviewing 50, and only hiring 12 qualified candidates. This phenomenon has been coined the “skills gap.”

While many communities are stuck arguing about whom to blame for the “skills gap,” south Wood County has come together. Three years ago, Incourage Community Foundation launched Workforce Central, a collaborative approach to develop new ways to serve workers AND employers.

What makes the Workforce Central effort different from those before? It’s engaged employers, education and social service agencies committed to finding a new way of doing business. And Incourage, providing the mechanism for collaboration as well as the community-focused resources, needed to make a difference right here in south Wood County.

With any wise investment, change does not occur overnight. This kind of investment takes time and thought. The partners involved in Workforce Central took the time to build trust, listen and deliver solutions that have created training and employment opportunities for our neighbors across the community who want jobs.
To date, more than 200 workers have been trained, with many now working and some inspired to continue their education. Led by Incourage, a group of 26 local corporate, family and individual donors make up the Workforce Central Funders Collaborative.

The Workforce Central Funders will match $1 for every $1 that a local resident donates to Skilled for Success, up to $35,000. These funds will be used to pay for training initiatives that align directly with employer needs. We are just scratching the surface of opportunities for area residents and are looking for you to help. Please make your contribution today and stay tuned to the Daily Tribune for stories of people who have been impacted by this work.
For more information about Incourage Community Foundation and the Workforce Central Funders Collaborative, please visit incouragecf.org or call 715.423.3863.

Jennifer Riggenbach is a Workforce Central project director.

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  • About Incourage

    Established in rural Wisconsin in 1994 to serve the changing needs of the south Wood County area, Incourage has become a nationally-recognized leader in place-based philanthropy and community development. Guided by values of equity, opportunity, and shared stewardship, Incourage envisions a community that works well for all people. One physical manifestation of this vision is the redevelopment of the Tribune building, which demonstrates Incourage’s user-centered approach to growing a strong and inclusive local economy.