“Winn Parish is certified as a ‘Work Ready Community,” says Ms. Mindy Goodman, sites coordinator for Area 60 of the Louisiana Workforce Development [LWD] authority. Goodman provided the members of Winnfield’s Rotary club on May 17, 2023, with information on programs and services available to local citizens through LWD Area 60’s WIOA. WIOA stands for the Workforce Innovative Opportunities Act passed in 2014, which provides federal grants to states for training and assisting underprivileged, underserved and low-income youth and adults in obtaining well-paying employment. Area 60 includes Avoyelles, Concordia, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle and Winn Parishes.
Attaining the status of a certified Work Ready Community means that Winn Parish has shown it has job candidates “in the pipeline” with high-demand skills as measured according to the National Career Readiness Certificate. It also shows that local employers care about hiring the best and brightest your region has to offer. This is demonstrated by potential employees’ successful performance on three Work Keys assessments which measure skills critical to success on the job, such as literacy, math, reading graphics. Undergoing these assessments is now free of charge to the person being tested.
The goal of the WIOA program is to put people to work. Ms. Goodman coordinates and supervises the offices in each of the six parishes. Her office is in Jena, but she spends most of her time on the road from one office to the next. The local representative is Charles Mixon, who is housed in the office of the Louisiana Workforce Commission at 101 West Boundary, Suite 101.
The WIOA program has multiple parts designed to get people to work. One is to assist persons with preparing a resume, completing an application for a job, helping get an interview set, calling the employer on behalf of the applicant. The office also holds job fairs for employers.
Another part of the program is assisting the prospective employees in overcoming barriers to their employment by getting education and/or training, helping the individual overcome barriers to employment. WIOA will assist a person in getting a driver’s license, getting training, completing education, getting a HISET diploma. A person receives assistance with whatever they need in terms of education or training to enable him or her to get a job. Applicants are assigned a case manager who assists them with everything. The case manager works with the local educational institutions to assist the applicant in obtaining the necessary knowledge and skills to go to work.
The office serves youth from age 16 through 24 who are not in school as well as any adult who is a citizen of the United States in a low-income situation in completing their education, getting training and finding a job. They just have to contact the office on West Boundary to take advantage of the available help, and then they can attend school, participate in job training, apply for jobs and go to work.
WIOC helps the dislocated worker who loses a job for reasons beyond his control, the displaced homemaker whose spouse leaves her without resources, spouses whose military reserve partners are called to active duty and must enter the workforce. The office works closely with all area Technical Colleges to get clients admitted to their programs and provide students with all the gear and supplies needed to take the programs. It also works with all high schools in the region to help students complete their high school diploma requirements. It gets students tutoring and helps them complete the HISET to get a diploma, obtain literacy training and remove other barriers to employment. The office has even sent clients to diesel truck driving school, after which they have immediately gone to work. It also provides financial literacy education for the clients to learn how to successfully manage their earnings and balance them with their spending.
The WIOA case manager follows the client from the day of signing up for the program until the day of entry into the work force. It even assists in some instances with employment-based training by paying one-half of the employee’s wages for the first six months on the job.
Each area is assessed on the success of the program by four measurements: the percentage of clients gaining credentials; the percentage of clients gaining measurable skills; the percentage of clients remaining employed in the second quarter after gaining employment; and the percentage of clients remaining employed in the fourth quarter after gaining employment. The office is supervised by the LaSalle Community Action Association, the board which sets the goals for Area 60.
Once all audience questions were answered and announcements made, the meeting was adjourned with the Rotary motto, “Service above Self!”