Although the Southwest Missouri WIB is a fairly young organization, it’s accomplishments over the first dozen years are impressive. The WIB survived and thrived through difficult transitions, economic recessions, even natural disasters.
The WIB officially incorporated in 2001 as part of the region’s transition from the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) to the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The WIB recruited its first set of board members and officers along with a very basic administrative staff. The Private Industry Council remained both the administrative entity and the program operator during this phase and the WIB co-existed in terms of initial leadership for the region’s workforce system.
In 2004, the Consortium of Chief Local Elected Officials officially appointed the WIB as the region’s administrative entity for workforce programs. The WIB procured new program operators and a new chapter began in terms of quality and innovation for the Joplin and Monett Career Centers. Missouri launched its Business Services Outreach Teams. Southwest Missouri flourished in this new framework and launched several demand-driven products as a result.
The WIB produced the region’s first meaningful strategic workforce plan in 2005 and made great strides in integrating workforce development with economic development across the region. The WIB held its first regional workforce summit in 2005 and won a highly-competitive state grant to launch innovative skills testing products at the one-stop centers. This project ultimately morphed into the National Career Readiness Certificate with strong growth over the coming years for both employers and job seekers.
Recognizing the WIB’s excellence in business services, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration named the Southwest Missouri WIB as a protege in DOL’s National Business Learning Partnership that ran 2006-2008. The Missouri Division of Workforce Development (DWD) prioritized the Southwest WIB among the top four of Missouri’s most innovative WIBs to participate in a national study on WIB Quality Benchmarking. In 2007, Gov. Blunt presented the Directors Innovation and Leadership Award to Jasen Jones at the state’s annual economic development conference.
The WIB found a niche throughout 2008-2010 in the WIRED framework from the U.S. Department of Labor. WIRED stands for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development. DOL awarded a Regional Innovation Grant (RIG) to the WIB and its emerging partnerships with WIBs, educators, business leaders, and economic developers throughout the greater Four-States region with neighboring Southeast Kansas, Northeast Oklahoma, and Northwest Arkansas. Early research and strategic functions of the RIG helped incubate what is now the Joplin Regional Prosperity Initiative. Collaboration continues to this day of the Four-State region WIBs in the Heartland 411 partnership. DOL, EMSI, and IEDC all published national case studies on the WIB’s successes.
Southwest Missouri was one of the earlier adopters of true one-stop integration. The WIB launched its first integration pilots in 2008-2009 and achieved one of Missouri’s first official quality charters through DWD. Missouri launched its Next Generation Career Center (NGCC) framework. The WIB’s earlier successes and lessons learned through the pilots helped Joplin and Monett flourish through NGCC.
All initiatives came to a halt in May 2011 as one of the nation’s deadliest and most destructive tornados in history ravaged Joplin and Duquesne. The WIB’s deployment of the Disaster Recovery Jobs Program brought $19 million in workforce recovery grants to the region and led award-winning efforts to train and employ hundreds of temporary workers. The WIB took part in the larger region-wide team of leaders and organizations profiled nationally for innovation and excellence in disaster recovery.
Disaster recovery actually brought lots of economic momentum to the region and the WIB’s successful work fueled greater opportunities to excel. In partnership with the City of Monett, the WIB relocated Monett’s one-stop workforce center to a new location in 2012 with expansions in services. In 2012 the WIB brought the Certified Work Ready Communities initiative to Southwest Missouri. Jasper County became the nation’s first-ever certified community under the new framework by ACT in March of 2013. The WIB linked corporate sponsorships and fee-based services to several of its initiatives to strengthen the WIB’s financial position and further contribute to its mission.
The Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 provided the long-awaited re-authorization of federal workforce resources and much-anticipated reform nationwide. The authors of WIOA embedded many promising practices of workforce programs on a national scale. Many of these were already active in the SW MO WIB such as economic development integration, sector prioritization, labor market innovations, one-stop cohesion, credentials, and many others.
Meeting the growth demand in Newton and McDonald Counties, the WIB launched the Neosho Job Center in March of 2015. The region’s newest Job Center helps seize opportunities such as the new multi-modal industrial park and Neosho’s new Foreign Trade Zone magnet site. Another long-term dream goal of the WIB came true in 2016 with the opening of the Joplin Advanced Training and Technology Center in collaboration with the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and Crowder College. The WIB’s relocated its administrative and field offices to the center in October 2016.
The Southwest Missouri WIB built a solid foundation of innovation and excellence to prepare businesses and the workforce for global competitiveness. Many of the WIB’s successes are studied nationally as a source of ideas to advance the workforce system on the national level. This bright past helps the WIB meet the challenges and seize opportunities for an even brighter future.
The WIB’s Honor Roll
The WIB is grateful for the partnerships that boost the success of the workforce system. Much of that success is recognized by the following awards and accomplishments.
- System-Building Award, National Association of Workforce Development Professionals, 2015
- America’s first nationally-certified ACT Work Ready Community, 2013 (also first to be re-certified in 2015)
- Show-Me Award for Collaboration, MO ACT Council, 2014
- Presidents Award, Missouri Economic Development Council, 2013
- Governors E-3 Award for Excellence in Employment, Education, and Economic Development, 2012
- IEDC Case Study on Economic Development Integration, 2010
- Nation’s first quad-state WIRED initiative with DOL, 2008-2010
- Affiliate Member of the Year, Missouri Economic Development Council, 2008
- DOL National Case Study on Labor Market Innovation, 2008
- Numerous invitations for state and national conference presentations on WIB innovations