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How We’ve Helped–Success Stories from The Workforce Connection


Success Stories from Employers

On the Job Training 
On-the-job training is just one of the tools available to employers through the business team at The Workforce Connection.  During the year ending June 30, 2017, there were 33 OJT contracts with employers, totaling more than $77,000.

On-the-job training helps place jobseekers into new positions by reimbursing the employer up to 50% of the cost of training, a great solution for both the jobseeker and a business that needs to provide specific training to a new employee.

Employers that have used OJT in the past speak highly of the program and often contact The Workforce Connection for additional funding when the opportunity presents itself.

“Programs like OJT allow manufacturers the ability to offset the high cost of training and develop a stronger workforce for our region,” said Sarah Johnson, Director of Business Operations at Imperial Punch & Manufacturing in Rockford.  

“One of the top threats to growing our business is the availability of a skilled workforce.   At Imperial we have learned that in order to attract and retain a skilled workforce, we need to be well adept at growing and training our own.  Providing the necessary training to grow a workforce is very costly.  The OJT program helps offset the cost of training by reimbursing a portion of the wages of our trainees.  This program gives individuals targeted training while they are working and earning wages and also enables employers to provide quality training in house.  Further, by training our workforce in house, we can adjust quickly when things change.”

Clayton Weiss participated in on-the-job training at Imperial Punch as an entry level worker and is now, nearly four years later, a lead CNC programmer and trainer.    “OJT training was the ideal situation for me, it basically saved my life. Can’t imagine where I’d be right now if not for this program,” Weiss said. 


Success Stories from Jobseekers

Nathanial Genung was forced from his home by his father at the age of 18 and relocated to Rockford, Illinois to stay with friends.  After a short time that arrangement did not work out and he was on the streets and homeless. When Nathanial was originally enrolled in The Workforce Connection Elevate youth program, he was sleeping in a tent in a park along the Rock River and would bring his belongings to class each day.   Nathanial’s attendance was excellent and he rarely missed a day of class. Counselors were able to assist Nathanial with registering for SNAP benefits, a medical card, township assistance and other services.  Nathanial successfully completed a paid Work Experience position, received his High School Equivalency Certificate  and was a speaker at the GED graduation ceremony at Rock Valley College.

Mulenda Bisoga  fled the war in his home country of Congo and waited twelve years before he was able to resettle in the United States.   It was a difficult adjustment but after enrolling in ESL classes, he was able to find a job to support himself and his family.   Mulenda plans to return to school and someday hopes to provide academic dreams to other refugees coming to America through his own non-profit work.

Jackie Penticoff lost her job after working for the same employer for 33 years.   Because her job was moved to China, she was eligible for services from The Workforce Connection through the TRADE program.    She enrolled in her local community college to study nursing, graduated Summa Cum Laude and was offered a job within two weeks following graduation.   

Becky Orth had a childhood dream of becoming a nurse and when she was laid off from a job she had held for five years, she decided to make her dreams come true.   She was a scared, single mother of a one year old, but with help from The Workforce Connection, she graduated from nursing school and is now earning twice as much as she did in her previous position. 

Kevin Melecio-Otero was a high school student, a phenomenal athlete but not a good student.  In fact, Kevin lost a full scholarship to play baseball in college because of his poor academic standing in school.  Angry, he dropped out of high school during his last semester.   After some twists and turns and lost opportunities, Kevin enrolled in the ELEVATE program to pursue his GED in hopes of eventually obtaining his CDL license and gained employment as a truck driver.

Jacob Von Huben was enrolled in The Workforce Connection Elevate youth program at the age of 17. Jacob worked hard and received his GED within two months, which was the fastest anyone in the program has ever received their GED Certificate.   Jacob pursued a work experience position that would help decide his career path in either law or psychology. He accepted a position at a local law firm and continued to show his dedication to improving his life situation by volunteering in the community. He returned to his GED class and tutored his classmates and also took on volunteering in the daycare of the local YMCA.   Jacob has shown determination, strong will and perseverance with each challenge that he has faced and has met and/or exceeded all of the goals that he set for himself through the program.

Ann Schneider was laid off after working for the same employer for nearly twenty years.   She was eligible for financial assistance through the Dislocated Worker program and seized the opportunity to earn her Master’s degree in business “I rediscovered my love of learning, which will be an important asset at any new job”

Mamboleo Kahindo  is originally from the Congo, but was forced to flee that country for a refugee camp in Tanzania, leaving her father and foster mother behind.  She married at a young age and was eventually resettled to the Rockford area.   In order to support her family after separating from her husband, she enrolled in ESL classes through Rock Valley College.     Initially, not many doors opened for an unemployed single mom, with little English or transportation. She interviewed with Aramark Uniform Service, and they were so impressed they offered her the position the same day.  Mamboleo has since accomplished many of the things we as citizens take for granted , including employment, buying a car, and getting her driver’s license. 

Souravong Luangphakdy sought assistance through The Workforce Connection at the age of 50, after losing a job in manufacturing that he had held for 27 years.  It became clear to Souravong that his struggle with English, lack of basic skills and an industry recognized credential were keeping him from gaining new full time employment.  Souravong began basic skills classes to improve both his math and reading skills, completed training to earn  a CNC Technician Certificate and gained employment as a CNC operator.

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