An organization that oversees job training and workforce development programs in Boone and Winnebago Counties is expanding to include Stephenson County.
John Strandin is a spokesman for the Boone and Winnebago Counties Workforce Investment Board.
Strandin says the Board had worked closely with Stephenson County on workforce issues before, so the two are familiar with each other. Strandin says, for a number of reasons, this merger makes sense.
“The companies that are in the Freeport area and Stephenson County are very similar to Winnebago and Boone. It’s very centered on manufacturing and health care. And those are a couple of the areas that we’ve focused on in the Rockford and Belvidere areas.”
Strandin says the new group will benefit organizationally from integrating its existing parts. That should allow for better planning and delivery of services where needed in the region. It could also be important financially to its programs, which are dependent on grants.
“Hopefully, when you have Boone and Winnebago County together, when you add a another sizable county, it gives the region a little more clout when it comes to seeking alternative funding.”
Stephenson County is currently part of a similar organization that includes Jo Daviess, Ogle, Carroll and Whiteside Counties. But, Strandin says, when that group planned a new alignment with LaSalle County, Stephenson County officials began talking to the Workforce Investment Board about possibly joining with it instead.
The new board will be known as the Northern Illinois Workforce Alliance. Strandin says the target date for providing services in Stephenson County is July 1st. Strandin says workers will see little or no difference in programs, at least at the start. But, he says, the hope is that the new Workforce Alliance will, in future, be able to bring more resources to bear on the problems those workers face.