News & Media

Skilled for Success: Believing in Potential Led to Support

Fri. Apr 20, 2012

By: Mary Ironside

Sometimes, you just have to take a leap of faith.

That’s what happened four years ago, when Incourage Community Foundation CEO Kelly Ryan Lucas came to WoodTrust and the Bell Family Charitable Foundation. She asked us to participate as a matching funder for a National Fund for Workforce Solutions grant.

At the time we weren’t familiar with workforce development. But, as Kelly explained how this project would focus on identifying skill sets that area employers needed in order to connect job seekers and employers, we were intrigued by the concept. We took a leap of faith, believing that through collaborative and philanthropic funding we could help the community work through the economic downturn that it was experiencing. Incourage was awarded that grant, which now funds the Workforce Central program.

Each year WoodTrust Bank and its charitable foundation generously support many local community service and nonprofit organizations. As a locally owned community financial institution, we are obviously very interested in the economic welfare of the community and its residents. Workforce Central is not your typical “safety net” philanthropy. It doesn’t provide emergency food or shelter to people in need of support. The end goal of this program is to prepare workers to achieve gainful employment in the community.

Since 2008, WoodTrust and Bell Family Charitable Foundation, along with nearly 30 other area funders, has leveraged and invested $2.3 million in Workforce Central. This money has helped build the capacity of our local workforce and education systems to better meet the needs of residents seeking employment and businesses requiring a skilled workforce. To date, 200 people have received the skills and training they need to gain or further their employment.

As an active member of the Funders Collaborative, I have come to appreciate that workforce development is hard work and it’s expensive. That’s why your support of the Skilled for Success program will help strengthen our community. We know that there are jobs available in the community, and we know that there are displaced and unemployed workers here; but there is still a skills gap between the employees and employers. Finding ways to leverage government programs and train and employ workers in our community is key. If we can do it efficiently and strategically, then we’ve got a win-win for both employees and employers.

In addition to the workforce development outcomes, the project is building human and social capital in our community not only in the form of a better trained workforce, but through new collaboration and partnerships that have been formed along the way. I’m seeing local employers, government, educators, nonprofit groups and philanthropy all working together in new, unintended ways and finding common threads in their missions. Critical stakeholders are actually working together in this effort.

Please join us and take the leap of faith by contributing to support workforce development efforts in our community through Skilled for Success. You’ll be helping someone succeed.

To learn more about Incourage Community Foundation’s Workforce Central, go to incouragecf.org. You can support the Skilled for Success program by clicking on the “Give Now” tab on the website. Your contribution will be match dollar-for-dollar.

Editor’s note: To view a donation form and a list of people who have donated thus far, please see page 9A of today’s paper.

Mary Ironside is executive vice president and chief financial officer of WoodTrust Bank.

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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.