RPC to absorb job-training consortium

RPC to absorb job-training consortium

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign Consortium is coming under the umbrella of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.

The consortium is the local agency that administers Workforce Investment Act grants for job training in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Piatt counties.

It has operated as a stand-alone agency for several decades. But as of next Monday, the regional planning commission will become the fiscal agent receiving those grants.

Al Anderson, who has been with Champaign Consortium for nearly 34 years, will remain the consortium's executive director.

The consortium will continue to have its office in the Illinois workNet Center at 1307 N. Mattis Ave., C, as well as satellite offices in Ford, Iroquois and Piatt counties.

One employee handling fiscal matters will move to the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana, Anderson said.

Champaign County Board Chair C. Pius Weibel said the change was made after the consortium came under pressure from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

"They were not 100 percent happy with how operations were going," Weibel said, adding the problem first cropped up about a year ago.

Weibel said it was difficult to decipher the specific problem, but he said the consortium didn't pass muster in all categories of an annual survey conducted by the department.

He said the problems were "not a matter of money being lost" but concerned records being kept up to date and verified. He added that an annual audit of the consortium detected no major problems.

A call placed Monday to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was not immediately returned.

Champaign Consortium administers about $2 million in job training and retraining money each year, with about 400 individuals receiving help, Anderson said.

It focuses on economically disadvantaged people, with separate programs targeted to youth, adults and dislocated workers, he said.

Anderson said the consortium has a staff of 14.

When they become part of the RPC staff, the commission will have roughly 225 employees, said Cameron Moore, the commission's chief executive officer.

The transition began July 1 and is expected to be complete by Oct. 1, Weibel said.

"I don't think it will affect operations that much," he said. "We've tried to make the transition appear to be seamless."

All four counties affected have signed off on the change, he said.

Weibel said the regional planning commission administers a variety of state and federally funded programs in East Central Illinois.

He said he is "very confident" it has the skills and background to operate workforce development programs.

Moore said he sees no dramatic changes for Champaign Consortium in the next year or so. But he said he hopes to get the area's Workforce Investment Board more engaged with area employers.