In June 2019, United Way of McLean County announced a new initiative called Workforce180. Workforce180 focuses on creating systems locally to link resources more effectively in helping at-risk youth enter more productive careers.

Local trends and at-risk youth feedback (escalating violence, increasing poverty, lack of meaningful opportunities) indicate a divergent viewpoint on the well-being of our community.  Trends suggests affluent young people are leaving Bloomington-Normal for college and career opportunities, altering the make-up of our local workforce.

How it Works

Supporting local youth is a primary focus for United Way, and we are committed to investing in young people in our community to help them make a “180” in their lives. We’re doing this by removing barriers and supporting students on the path to successful employment and income stability.

This is not just another jobs program. There are plenty of local employers looking for trained workers, and Workforce180 is the bridge: connecting job training and certified skills with stable, long-term employment. Participants in our Workforce180 initiative learn specialized skills and earn certifications for in-demand careers. When a student successfully completes their certification, employers are waiting.

UWMC staff and volunteer mentors work with each participant to determine what barriers exist that would keep them from successfully completing the path to certification. They then gather the necessary resources — such as social services, shelter assistance, childcare — to help solve those problems. Each cohort group meets regularly to support one another, as well as receive support from professional trainers, mentors, and even potential employers.

Participants who have successfully completed the Workforce180 pathway say this team approach made a huge difference to them — they knew their mentors and United Way were beside them, making sure they had what they needed to succeed.

How it’s Going

From our pilot launch in 2019 with just six students, we have grown to 55 dedicated young adults following a growing list of career paths: Nursing, Phlebotomist, Paramedic, Early Childhood Education, Welding, Graphic Design, and more. As we work to increase our number of mentors and prospective employers the opportunities for our grads grow, too.

How to Get Involved

  • Are you a prospective student who could benefit from Workforce180’s support system? You’ll find details about the initiative here and when you’re ready to take the next step, reach out to United Way’s Gloria Spinks at to set up an interview.
  • Interested in becoming a Workforce180 mentor? Our volunteer mentors are truly what makes Workforce180 so powerful. They tell us it’s some of the most gratifying work they’ve participated in, and they learn as much from their students as the students learn from them! Are you ready to help change a young person’s life? Read more about the job description and email Kathleen Lorenz at for more information.
  • Interesting in contributing to Workforce180? Donations make it possible for us to continue growing this powerful initiative and turning around the lives of these motivated young people. Corporate or private sponsorships of a student or cohort is a powerful way to make a difference! Email David Taylor at to learn more about sponsorship opportunities, or donate here.

Hear students explain what Workforce180 has meant to them

A mentor (and employer!) details the value of Workforce180

A new mentors prepares for the upcoming semester