RMCEP 2020 Reaction Provides Optimism for 2021
14 Jan 2021
As the new Board of Directors Chair of Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (RMCEP), Lori Schwartz saw first hand the employment difficulties people struggled with as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. But she also saw the organization was up to the challenge of continuing to offer its programs and services throughout 2020.
“They did not miss a beat in forming an action plan to keep a continuous stream of services in a different way than they had before, said Schwartz. “To do so with such a complicated set of funding streams and programs with unique approaches for different clients is so very impressive.”
Schwartz is also the Executive Director of Lakes and Prairie Community Action Partnership (CAPLP) in Moorhead, a part of the national network of Community Action Agencies that together form America’s Poverty Fighting Network. She has been involved with CAPLP since 1993, which operates more than 30 programs and services focused on low-income children and families as well as programs and other efforts to engage communities in discussion and activities that eliminate poverty.
Schwartz has been on the RMCEP board since 2016 and was voted to the Board Chair position last October. In her experiences serving RMCEP on the Personnel and Human Resources Committees, she has been impressed by the amazing work the organization is able to perform while serving a huge territory.
“The way RMCEP approaches workforce development is extremely professional and I have learned how very intentional the staff is in taking their tasks seriously,” she said. “They absolutely have the best interest of their employees in mind.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic poised to overwhelm every facet of daily life last spring, Schwartz was impressed with how RMCEP pivoted so quickly and mostly blindly to continue its services, when there was not one minute available to stop services to individuals when they needed it most.
“The ability to react was a tribute to the skill and dedication of Executive Director Vicki Leaderbrand and the entire staff,” she said.
Schwartz pointed to RMCEP’s 2020 results as an indicator of the group’s skill. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, RMCEP was able to work with nearly 5,000 interested jobseekers in person or virtually. Over 1,100 adults and nearly 700 youth received guided career counseling, job placement and training resources while following the RMCEP COVID-19 Return to Work and Safety Plan.
Delivering their typical level of service required a change to nearly every manner in which RMCEP employees worked. Personnel developed distance learning methods for Career Advising, such as conducting mock interviews by video conferencing and creating videos to provide information. Another innovative strategy was the continuation of an “Opportunity Bus” to facilitate a day of meet-and-greet at Fargo-Moorhead manufacturing companies for participants interested in hands-on manufacturing.
RMCEP performed very well in employment data under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, State Act Program. The WIOA Adult Employment Rate of adult participants two quarters after exiting a RMCEP program was 82.6% compared to the state-required goal of 82.1%, while the WIOA Dislocated Worker Program employment rate for adult participants two quarters after exiting a RMCEP program was 85.35% compared to the state-required goal of 82.9%. And the percentage of youth participants in eiter education, training or employment during the fourth quarter of exiting a RMCEP program was 79.62% versus the state-required goal of 62.5%
The organization was awarded a “Best Practice” acknowledgement by the Minnesota Association of Workforce Development Boards for their Inclusive Workforce Employer Designation, a project created to recognize and promote inclusive employers, reduce racial disparities and bring awareness to the value and methods of increasing workforce diversity.
RMCEP also places a high priority on fiscal responsibility. In 2020, the overall Return on Investment to the taxpayer by the organization was $1.65 for each $1 spent. By program, the ROI for the Diversionary Work Program was $2.59, the Federal Dislocated Worker was $1.73, the Minnesota Family Investment Program was $1.43, the State Dislocated Worker Program was $1.34 and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was $5.50.
Focus on 2021
The primary goals for RMCEP in 2021 include focusing on providing consistent services to the business community, increased use of technology to provide client-focused services and continue to focus on developing innovative MFIP strategies for customer engagement.
Schwartz is optimistic RMCEP will accomplish those goals due to its performance during the major crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have little doubt that nothing will lag behind in 2021,” she said. “Life may look different, but RMCEP will continue to serve.”
RMCEP is a private, non-profit corporation that provides quality workforce development services in a nineteen county area in North Central and West Central Minnesota with a vision to be viewed by customers and prospective customers as the leader in employability development services in the state. The agency is in its 52 year of operating employment and training programs, including services of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the primary federal workforce development legislation.