In December, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center will unveil its new interior design, which will include a rebooted welcome center where job seekers can have their resumés reviewed and take job-skills assessments.
It’s one of many changes made by Lisa Rice, the workforce center’s new executive director and CEO.
She’s making changes even as she’s figuring out how to incorporate a 24 percent budget cut for this program year, which means losing $2 million of $9 million in funding.
“It was cut because the unemployment rate goes down,” Rice said. “When it goes down, we get less money even though we serve businesses a whole ton.”
Another budget cut is expected next program year as well, Rice said, but that doesn’t mean the center will see a decrease in either clients or services. At this fall’s fair, 1,200 job seekers came looking for employment from 142 participating businesses. Those were the highest numbers in 10 years, Rice said.
She also is trying to spread the word about the center’s new program, “on-the-job training,” which helps employers pay for training as long as certain stipulations are met.
Rice, who leads 48 employees and will work with about 40,000 clients in a program year, says she’s prepared to take on the dual challenge of budget cuts and increased program services.
Before moving back to Colorado Springs, Rice was vice president of the Development for Dynamic Workforce Solutions in Denver. She moved to Colorado from Florida, where she lived for 28 years and earned a master’s degree in public administration. She was president of CareerSource Brevard, an organization that runs federal workforce programs in Brevard County, Fla.
Before making a life for herself in Florida, Rice attended Mitchell High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1985 from UCCS.
She has lived in the Springs, off and on, since she was 8 years old, and considers herself a native.
Rice spoke with the Business Journal about the workforce industry in Colorado Springs and her new position with PPWFC.
How do you approach being the CEO of PPWFC?
It starts with being the leader and visionary here. Where do we want to go? How do we make it better for both our customer sets — business and job seekers? I very much try to find those on staff who have strengths in certain areas and help them excel and do that everyday. If you do what you love every day, it’s less like work. You’re usually happier and more productive.
Out in the community, it’s kind of like being a cheerleader … having a passion for what you do, getting others excited for what you do. We actually just had somebody who contacted us [saying] that he already exited from our services and he got a job [and] he got promoted. He attributed the promotion to how we had helped him get more confidence, get him prepared for what was coming for him in an interview.
What workforce trends have you noticed in Colorado Springs?
Basically, what we’re seeing is this trend of people who have two to three jobs. … They’re trying to upgrade their skills and trying to get themselves into just one job. We’re also seeing some people who are coming back into the workforce, so they may be retired. Some of them are bored and some of them also need the financial assistance because their nest egg didn’t last like they thought it would. They don’t usually want high-paying jobs, they don’t need to be the CEO — they’re looking to be useful and have a purpose.
We [also] still need to work on computer skills. The technology, even in the workplace, changes. What you used to use for a payroll system may not be what you’re using now. From the business side, the need for the workforce has grown to the painful point. They’re more willing to take a chance on somebody who doesn’t have all the skills.
What advice would you give to other women in CEO roles?
Take time for yourself. We say that a lot, but hardly ever do it. … If you can figure out just little pieces of your day to give to you, then it makes you work harder, work longer [and] get through the stressful situations. … I always think of it as on the airplane when they talk about the oxygen mask dropping, and they say put your own on first before you put on somebody else’s. That’s exactly what this is. Take care of yourself a little bit, put your own oxygen mask on, start to breathe normally and help somebody else.