How might we...
overcome obstacles in workforce development programs in Salt Lake County?

Despite the existence of robust workforce development programs in Salt Lake County, the Economic Development (SLCo ED) Division observed a lack of programming and funding targeted at Opportunity Communities. They wanted to focus on connecting these communities with workforce development programs and support services. 

To reach the economically disadvantaged communities that could most benefit from these programs, SLCo ED had conceived of the idea for a Workforce Inclusion and Successful Employment (WISE) program and wanted help making WISE a reality. They were looking for a partner to analyze the landscape and help design the program with a five year proof of concept to ensure the program directly addressed the real needs of the county’s population.

How we tackled it

We started with research — we wanted to gain a better understanding of the real needs of the community, so we conducted surveys and interviews with folks who had participated in or helped support workforce development programs in the county. Through this qualitative and quantitative research, we learned that many of those who had participated in these programs struggled to keep pace due to other demands or needs.

We also conducted a number of workshops, bringing together people from community-based organizations, community colleges, non-profits, and more to design how the WISE program might look. Through these workshops we identified the wraparound services underserved populations most needed to be successful in workforce development programs, such as mental health services, career coaching, and childcare support. Together, we also came to understand the importance of connecting people with employers and institutions and identifying connections between existing resources. The key was to create a collaborative ecosystem of partnerships to ensure complementary engagement.

The results

Over the next five years, WISE plans to serve between 2,000 and 3,000 individuals, providing five intervention strategies: outreach, advising, career coaching, mental health support, and resource navigation. 

But overcoming obstacles and getting folks jobs is not the only end goal. WISE also wants to make sure these jobs increase economic mobility and stability for the participants and create a net positive impact to the state by the end of 2026. To hold themselves to account, WISE is regularly reviewing several data points, including enrollment and completion data, job placement and retention, and income pre- and post-WISE participation.

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