The Institute for Work and the Economy is an independent,
not-for-profit think tank operated under the direction of a national
board of directors. The mission of the Institute is to recognize and
address emerging issues in workforce development policy and management
and to develop novel solutions and strategies for resolving structural
problems facing the workforce system. It provides early warning and guidance to policy makers, opinion leaders and funders
supporting workforce development on issues just over the horizon.
In January 2009, the Institute launched the Midwest Innovation Initiative, a project of the Great Lakes Employment and Training Association, an association of local workforce development leaders, and of Midwestern state workforce development agency heads. The Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments is a partner in this initiative. The project is funded by a grant from the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor to the State of Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Over the course of eighteen months, the initiative aims to organize a systems approach to address the complex challenges within the Midwest economic mega-region. Our goals are:
To explore the role of combined workforce development and education systems in driving entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development
To frame a development agenda that is driven by innovation, invention and entrepreneurship and talent
To strengthen the links between local economies to achieve the scale of a globally competitive region
To develop the capacity and the rationalization for Midwestern states to work in close collaboration on tough systemic problems
To develop strategies for achieving and sustaining coordinated actions.
While many say that the reasons for greater cooperation and coordination among Midwestern states and local areas are self-evident, that sentiment has not been translated into consistent actions by either state or local leadership. One reason is that not enough work has been done to describe the connections that bind the Midwest into several economic layers, leaving elected officials, and those who elect them, wondering why they should care about how their actions may affect their neighbors, much less the overall health of the region. Consequently, an early task of the Midwest Innovation Initiative is to focus on the development of new tools that provide important and insightful characterizations of regional economic dynamics.
In 2005, the Institute began a project on the
integration of immigrants in the workplace before immigration became a
front-page issue. In 2007, the Institute went on to address
the challenges faced by foreign-educated workers in finding employment
that is appropriate for their skills and education. In 2009, the Institute, in collaboration with the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, prepared a report, Latinos and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in Illinois, for the Latino Technology Association. Also, in 2009, received a grant from the Chicago Community Trust to explore the employment challenges faced by middle-income families.
In other areas, the Institute is
proposing a U.S.-Mexico dialogue on mutual concerns regarding the
training and education of workers on both sides of the border. We also are developing a concept for a predictive market in occupations. Occasionally, we
propose policies for public consideration, including those on training
adults who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and for a retail-city
partnership to move entry-level retail workers into higher value
In the area of professional
development, the Institute has developed a sophisticated and
technically advanced electronic knowledge exchange. The Workforce Open
Knowledge Exchange (WOKE), is an electronic resource facilitating the
exchange of knowledge and experience within the workforce development
community. Its advanced content management and search capabilities
bring together all fields of practice and policy within workforce
development. The underlying contextual mapping supports explorations of
complex issues. And, our commitment to the use of the most advance
software technology while staying within industry standards will assure
the long-term viability of this application as well as support its
is staffed full-time by its Executive Director and by a part-time policy research associate. Our design is to maintain a small core staff and work in multi-institutional collaborations on all projects. Consequently, all other staff members
are independent researchers and contractors of the Institute. The
Institute was housed at and supported by Northern Illinois University
from its inception in 2000 through September 2007. It now functions as
a standalone organization.
See the Institute's blog: http://workandeconomy.wordpress.com
Institute for Work & the Economy 70 East Lake Street Suite 1700 Chicago, Illinois 60601-5930 Phone: 312.332.8508 Fax: 773.681.7028 Blog: http://workandeconomy.wordpress.com