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COWIB Business Services Network Best Practice

Business Services Meeting with audienceWorking with partners is key to helping workforce grow in Oklahoma. Partnerships foster economic development through open communication.

A few years ago, the Central Oklahoma Workforce Innovation Board (COWIB) launched the COWIB Business Services Network. The idea was to provide a venue to foster connections between the workforce system and outside partners. The initiative has become a best practice in gathering stakeholders.

The hour-long meetings are rotated among multiple partner organizations in the Central Oklahoma area and include workforce partners as well as other organizations sharing timely information. Recent speakers have included the AARP, Moore Norman and Canadian Valley Technology Centers. The sessions are free and open to anyone.

We recently spoke with Dana Clark, COWIB’s Program Manager for Business Services and Communication, about how the benefits of the COWIB Business Service Network.

speaker at podium on laptop1. With the ongoing pandemic, how have you all been able to meet and keep this network going and growing?

With the availability of being virtual, then it has assisted in the continuation of the Business Services Network. We have been offering a blended approach so that people can attend either in person or virtually. The beauty of this model is that it gives flexibility.

I have also offered organizations to host at their site and give tours, which many organizations are thrilled to do. To answer the question about how we have kept it growing, I work closely with my One-Stop-Operator, Kim Chapman, and we share resources and share when we have speakers that might benefit each other’s meetings. Also, many of network members know of other resources and often refer them to me to invite to speak or host or attend the Business Services Network meetings.

speaker speaking at lectern 2. How important is it to reach out to different providers and resources in your community?

Not one organization has all of the resources to address a business’ needs, so when we come together and share what we have available, then we can braid services with one another and leverage our resources appropriately to assist our community and our businesses. That is the purpose of our Business Services Network, is to better serve our community and better serve our businesses by working together.

3. What kind of a difference has this made when it comes to workforce?

I believe that by all of us working together, then we have started to create and maintain a strong network of helpers. While the Business Services Network focuses more on the needs of businesses, most of the organizations involved also work with job seekers, so we can refer businesses and job seekers to these different organizations in the hopes of benefitting the job seekers and the businesses.

When we all work together, then we are able to make a bigger impact. And when we all are striving for the same goal, then we can all walk together and give support along the way.

We all want our businesses to be successful and we are all looking to increase the number of people hired and retained, so we all act accordingly to try to make that happen.Two people standing at meeting

4. What advice would you give to organizations looking to do something similar?

For our Workforce Development Boards specifically, work closely with your One-Stop-Operator. They are expert networkers. They interact with a variety of organizations that you may not be aware of.

In general, for organizations looking to start something similar, look to your Chambers of Commerce, Career Techs, Public School Systems, state agencies (DHS, DRS, etc.) and community based organizations for suggestions on who to invite, or invite them all. Ask for best practices from places that already have something in place. I am happy to share any information that I can and be of support in anyway that I can, and I know many other helpers in our communities feel the same way. Lastly, don’t be afraid of failure. The fact that you are working to create something new for your area is a success in and of itself, so celebrate that. There are people out there to help and support, lean on them.

To learn more about COWIB please visit their website.