April 10, 2017

Joni Friedman, Larimer County Workforce Center

2017 Women of Distinction - Government, Energy, Utilities

Educating, employing and building relationships are keys to a strong community for Joni Friedman. As director of the Larimer County Workforce Center, moving into her 40th year with the organization, she has put her mark on the community in all of those ways.

“You get to see outcomes,” she said, describing the aspects of her job that she loves. “Businesses find people with the skills they need, and individuals find jobs they want and like.”

Under Friedman’s direction, the Workforce Center meets its mission of improving quality of life through employment and workforce development. She credits the creativity of staff with the expansiveness of available services. “I have a dedicated team that knows how to think out of the box to serve.”

Those programs include an internship and on-the-job training program and a youth entrepreneur tournament.

“We’ve worked with 250 individuals throughout the year with the internship program, which one of our managers developed,” Friedman said. The program matches Workforce Center clients with businesses and provides pay for those clients while employers get the opportunity to utilize their skills and consider hiring them.

“About 60 percent of those people then enter into unsubsidized employment,” she said. “And if they aren’t successful, we can then coach them better on why they aren’t keeping jobs.”

The youth entrepreneur program and tournament focuses on teaching young people how to start a business. Kids as young as 12 and up to 18 develop ideas for businesses with a Workforce Center coach and then pitch them to local entrepreneurs. Those businesses have included a catering company, a longboard business, website development and card designing.

“Joni’s vision and dedication to innovative and quality services has solidified the agency’s status as a cutting-edge pioneer in the workforce and economic-development programs and services,” said Dena Jardine, the center’s associate director. “Her ability to creatively solve problems and build meaningful relationships has supported the agency through difficult challenges and provided a foundation of forward momentum.”

Jacob Castillo, economic development director for Larimer County, describes Friedman as a champion for finding ways to help people engage and succeed in the economy and in the community. When he started his position, she was a veteran community leader “who had been through the ups and downs of the local and national economic cycles and had seen how people and communities are impacted by the ever-changing and evolving world,” he said.

Friedman credits her success to maintaining her focus on individuals.

“I always keep in mind that everyone is unique so I need to adapt,” she said. “I listen, try to ask good questions and be respectful. Being respectful is the most important thing.”

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