7 Tips from Cara Chicago to Build New Workforce Development Partnerships


What makes a workforce development employment partnership successful? 

RiseKit recently chatted with Kelly DeBouver, Senior Corporate Account Manager of Cara Chicago, an organization engaging job seekers, employers, and other organizations across the country to break the cycle of poverty through the power and purpose of employment.

DeBouver has helped her organization build a major workforce development program through solid employment partnerships. She shared seven tips to help other organizations do the same. 

Communication is key.  When Cara’s talent pool dwindled due to Covid-19, DeBouver communicated with clients to keep them abreast of the changes every step of the way. They chatted about ways the employment partners could pivot to accommodate the ever-evolving employment landscape.

“I think that there are definitely opportunities to continually communicate and reinforce that [the partners] are on top of mind,” she said. 

DeBouver believes that finding opportunities for one-on-one conversations and in-person events (when safe to do so) is critical for building relationships with both the partner and client. 

Show love often. A while back, DeBouver saw a piece on 60 Minutes that made her think about one of her partners. She emailed that partner just to let them know that she was thinking about their organization and the important work they do. DeBouver makes a point to contact her partners every now and then with no ask attached. 

Treat partners like friends. Cara sets the tone with its employment partners that they are more than partners; they are friends. The partners know they can reach out to them for help, and Cara always looks for ways to let their partners know how much they mean to them.

Build trust and credibility. Besides the standard calls and emails, DeBouver also conducts site visits to really learn the culture of their partners and be as successful as possible when placing a client. 

“...[The site visit] was really powerful and helpful for me in that I could see the work environment, I could meet the people,” DeBouver said.

Rely on your instincts. DeBouver believes that workforce development leaders must lean into their instincts regarding whom they are partnering with and recommending for jobs. If a red flag is there for any reason, don’t ignore it. 

Have a matchmaker mentality. Cara Chicago has adopted this mentality to ensure the success of both its clients and partners. The organization keeps both parties informed along the way. It ensures both parties are satisfied with the placement. It believes that each party’s happiness is equally important.

Don’t let failures define your program. There will be times in the workforce development journey that a client will just not work out, or an employment partner will just not be satisfied. DeBouver reminds workforce development staff not to let that get them down and that they can only be fully responsible for how they respond to the problem. 

“I realized that you know, I can't control other human beings, and I also can’t take accountability for their actions,” she added.