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Workforce Innovation Division boasts diverse, qualified staff ready to help community

WID staff

Inside the Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology on Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha Campus, it’s quiet.

But the quiet is broken by a buzz of activity coming from the office of Workforce Innovation Division. Inside the office is a collaborative group of people working together to help create, prepare and find the workers of the future.

“WID is here to align with business and industry needs to build and advance the skill set of their workforce,” Victoria Novak, director of WID, says. “We have a business side and a community side that we bring together to help with the economic development of Omaha.”

Kim Whiteside, an instructional systems designer for WID, says the department’s job is to help businesses find skilled workers as well as train those skilled workers. 

“One of the things I always say is ‘pipeline.’ We make the connection to the people who need jobs and skills to those employers. We have a suite of services.”

WID offers an array of services that often aren’t identical from business from business. The people of WID work directly with those businesses to help design corporate training to prepare current and future employees.

“We have preparation and work readiness,” Whiteside said. “For those who are unemployed or underemployed, we have those courses and trainings that help prepare them for the workforce and help them get those entry-level positions and jobs.”

WID also does needs analysis for businesses, to see what skills they are looking for in current and future employees. This way, WID is able to create, develop and customize training and classes that focus on those skills.

“We call that our concierge service,” Whiteside said. 

Novak said WID also helps to locate “pain points” within businesses and industries so they can help correct them.

“If their pain points are entry-level workers and they don’t have a training program, we will help them create a training program. We also work with the Nebraska Department of Labor and work-ready communities so they can backfill those open positions,” she explained. 

WID also encourages businesses to see what students and programs are doing inside CAET, showing them how their business can be improved with help from the technology and students working there.

“How can we have them work with our Prototype Design degree students? If they have a production and distribution-type business and are using little automation, they could come to CAET, set up a satellite shop and see what it looks like to work with ore robotics so they can become more efficient.”

Relationships with business and industry partners has become very important, Whiteside said. Establishing a strong and trusting relationship early helps both sides learn what the other brings to the table and what the other can do to help.

“We can bring members of business and industry into workshops and classes so they can help with the curriculum and development. We build those relationships early so the businesses are getting to know the participants and students they could eventually hire,” she said. 

WID also offers many career placement programs, Adult Education and GED classes. Those classes help give students the important first skills they need to become more employable. 

“You can create a seven-day program skills program, then have students go directly to a weeklong career placement program where they are learning ethics, customer service and those skills to make them hirable. There is an 86 percent retention rate from that program. It’s good for everybody overall.”

The WID staff works well to make all their programs successful, which Novak credits to having experts in diverse areas.

“We have experts in instructional design, building relationships, operations, stewardship, building processes,” she said. 

“We play off of each other’s skill sets really, really well. I think that is essential for a team. We respect each other’s differences and build on those strengths. We recognize that in each other that if someone is better than you are and that’s OK,” said Tammy Green, director of Career Skills and Adult Education within WID.

Whiteside added that the WID staff is full of forward-thinking people, making sure MCC is a step ahead in their corporate-training offerings.

“We are keeping in mind ‘What is going to be the norm in three to five years? What technology will we need? What skills are people going to need?’ We are looking at how technology will change, how skills will change and preparing people for that right now,” Whiteside said. 

“Everything really does have to interact and flow like an ecosystem,” said Green. “Career Placement combines with GAP, which combines with Adult Education, which works with corporate training. We don’t have a lot of silos.”

Everyone is working toward the same goal, Whiteside said: success for the students. It’s what has made WID flow smoothly as it’s grown over the last year.

“We have passion for what we do,” she said. “That’s a big success-factor is that we want to see people successful. We want to build a community of people who are living their best life and adding value to the companies they are working for.”

Hearing and seeing the successes of WID over time is a powerful feeling, Novak said, and makes her proud to be a part of a team that has created success for many.

“To know that I am a part of a successful model program that I can go shout the successes from the mountaintops,” Novak said. “That gives me goosebumps to think that’s what’s possible here. It gives me pride but it’s so much more than that. It’s a movement where you’re affecting people’s lives.”

“It’s neat to see where it started and watch it grow and impact our community,” Green said. 

To learn more about WID and its offerings, visit mccneb.edu/wid.