Lisa Daugherty, President & CEO of Center of Workforce Innovations (CWI), started her nonprofit career with a small organization that focused on serving children and adults with disabilities. But as she worked as the nonprofit’s marketing and development director, Daugherty was doing what she would do a few decades later at CWI.
“I actually took on overseeing this nonprofit’s employment services department,” Daugherty said. “So, there I am, getting engaged in that workforce development arena. I would later go to the Lake Area United Way, where we would have this series of community conversations.”
These conversations would ultimately land the nonprofit into a reinvention of itself. At first not knowing what that new focus should be, it turned outward and determined it should really engage the community in a thoughtful way.
“We landed on helping low-income working families access childcare and better paying jobs; once again, workforce development,” Daugherty said. “It was a common thread that was never intentional, until it was.”
Daugherty stepped into the president and CEO position on March 1, after former President & CEO Linda Woloshansky retired. When Woloshansky, who was the founding CEO of the organization when it was created in 2000, stepped down, she immediately knew Daugherty would be perfect for the position and the future of the organization.
“It was bittersweet in a number of ways,” Woloshansky said. “But it was an opportunity to pass it on to someone else who had been with an organization with a very solid foundation, with a great staff, who had done a lot of pioneering and innovation. It was a good time to leave because everything was in good standing. The next person could run with it in terms of building better strategies and better models to help advance CWI and the regional economy in the workforce.”
“She asked me if I was interested and told me I should apply,” Daugherty said. “This caused me to look closely at everything; I did a ton of due diligence, because it wasn’t an easy decision for me to leave United Way. In fact, it was torture.”
Much like Daugherty, Woloshansky left a nonprofit to become president and CEO of CWI back in 2000 with the goal of focusing on economic and workforce development.
“I saw that we had the opportunity to work extensively with economic development to ensure that businesses stayed in Northwest Indiana, as well as attract new businesses to the area as a result of the workforce being developed,” Woloshansky said. “I also saw the chance to develop really good relationships with school systems and higher education, so that we could work and collaborate together.”
“I saw the direction the world was going, and it was really important to Northwest Indiana,” Woloshansky said. I saw that we had a great chance to make a mark here and really set the stage for that kind of collaboration and cooperation with partners.”
Daugherty shared a similar sentiment about her eventual career change.
“It was a great opportunity for me to help more families access better paying jobs,” she continued. “That’s my ‘why.’ My ‘why’ is helping families get access to better jobs.”
Daugherty has spent her first 90 days as president and CEO getting a handle on the organization and different perspectives on where it needed her focus. She remarked how her goal as president and CEO was to take what Wolohansky created and move forward.
“Linda invested all of herself in this organization,” Daugherty said. “She created it, she built it, and she handed it off to me. I’m excited to now take it to another level. When I see the opportunities and look in that rearview mirror, my experiences play well. These opportunities play to my strengths.”
“We can take awareness of what CWI and WorkOne does in the community,” she said. “We can take that to a whole new level and really raise awareness so that families know that, if they’re seeking training, coaching, or simply a new job, we are the resource that can help them make that happen.”
Woloshansky echoed Daugherty’s goal of expanding and making CWI a community resource.
“I see a lot of expansion happening to cover a lot of the Region,” Woloshansky said. “The new resources on the horizon will support the work with a broader audience of people in mind.”
Daugherty remarked on the growing and changing workforce trends, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I never saw the benefit of working from home, and before last year, I don’t think I would have been convinced,” she said. “Well, we had to because it was the only direction we could take. And it was phenomenal. It was so productive. So, I think a lot of organizations are realizing the benefits of remote work.”
Daughtery also commented on the trade jobs that continue to be in high demand. From welding to new healthcare careers like medical coding and billing specialists, the state is providing funding for tuition for high-demand jobs that pay a good wage.
However, COVID-19 saw a drastic drop in the workforce population, a troubling trend that CWI is addressing through community conversation.
“What I intend to do is get even more engaged with the public,” Daugherty said. “We’re going to listen to what is happening in their world and find out what’s preventing them from entering the labor force. This way, we can develop strategies that make sense for the public and this area’s unique needs.”
Woloshansky emphasized CWI’s adult education program, remarking how it is stronger than ever in providing educational services to people.
“It’s turned out to be stronger than ever in terms of assisting people and finding different ways to connect with them so that they can continue their education. It’s another way we have been able to impact the community and will continue to impact the community.”
Daugherty’s time in the nonprofit sector, especially in workforce development, has taught her a lot about connections and how the work of any nonprofit is to grow and develop those connections every day.
“I treasure our employees, our clients, the families that we’re serving, and our partners,” she said. “With that, we can deliver a world class workforce. That’s the goal. We’re this bridge between families and employees and employers. Fostering that connection is vital.”
For more information about Center of Workforce Innovations, visit https://www.cwicorp.com/.
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