From the Sterling Office

Terry lost his job in retail in December of 2020. He felt the need to get training in order to earn a credential that would allow him to find stable employment and earn a self-sufficient income.

Terry qualified for assistance from BEST, Inc. as a dislocated worker and enrolled in CDL training in February at Highland Community College.  He earned his CDL in April and started driving for Schneider National in May.

Terry was very grateful for the assistance that he was able to get from BEST, Inc.  He sent a thank you note to me that said, “You are making the world a better place. Keep pulling those people out of the tough lane! God bless your whole system! Keep up the good work!


Ben lost his job in construction in November of 2020.  He contacted the BEST, Inc. office in Sterling in December of 2020 to inquire about getting assistance with tuition for CDL class at Highland Community College.

As a dislocated worker, Ben qualified for assistance and enrolled in CDL training in December.  In January of 2021, he earned his CDL and was later hired at a pavement company in Elgin. Now that he has his CDL, he will earn a higher wage and have more stability in his employment.


Andrew was laid off from his job in the manufacturing sector in September of 2019.  He came to the BEST, Inc. office in Sterling in December of that year to inquire about getting assistance with tuition and fees for welding classes at Sauk Valley Community College.

As a dislocated worker, Andrew qualified for financial assistance and was able to enroll in the welding program at Sauk in January of 2020.  He did very well in his classes from the start. And when the pandemic caused his training to be delayed a few months, he persevered and picked up where he left off when classes started again.

Andrew eventually earned certificates in entry level welding, advanced welding, and robotic welding and graduated from Sauk in December of 2020. He was hired to work at Astec Mobile Screens in Sterling in February of 2021 and was recently hired at Woods in Oregon.


Karl: came into the program as an income eligible person, he was working part time at a local grocery store. He completed his RN program and not only has he gained employment at CGH on the med surg floor he will be an adjunct teacher for the health professions program. 


Cassandra: is a single mother of 3 children. Through the services of BEST, Inc., she was able to complete her RN program and passed her NCLEX. She is now looking for employment as an RN. 


Alexis: came to the program as a single mother of 1 young boy. Because of BEST, Inc. she completed her RN program and is now working at CGH earning 21.00/hr. She is off all public assistance. 


Patricia: came to the program as a veteran and on food stamps. Patricia was able to get into the LPN program at SVCC. She passed that program and went on to the RN program where she again passed and will be transitioning to RN duties at her nursing home where she has worked since she was a CNA. 


Jaymes: Came to the program after being laid off from a local manufacturing plant. Due to his unique circumstances surrounding his girlfriend and his daughter applying for their visa’s, he chose not to file for UI. Through the pandemic he took CDL training and successfully completed it. He is now employed by Dohrn as a driver earning 24.80/hr.


Sydney: She was income eligible for the program after working at Walnut Cheese. She got herself into the Rad Tech program and successfully completed it with our help.  Without Best’s assistance and support services she could not have made the daily commute to classes or clinicals. She successfully completed her training and is now working in Iowa. She is earning 23.50/hr 


Carroll Industrial Molds DW-OJT

The On-the Job Training (OJT) at Carroll Industrial Molds in Milledgeville, Illinois is going very well for both the client and the business.   This began in March of 2021 thanks to a referral from Jeff Allspaugh of IMEC.  Our customer, who was a dislocated worker who was laid off due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, is learning the skills for a CAD Draftsman.  He is making great strides and the OJT also included reimbursement for training from Solid WORKS to help him improve and gain more CAD Skills.   Kyle Knutti is the Vice President of Carroll Industrial Molds and he has expressed that our customer is doing great and progressing very well with training and his on-the job performance.    Carroll Industrial Molds has been a pleasure to partner with to provide this valuable OJT for our dislocated adult customer.   Our customer was able to obtain two certification in CAD in the following areas: Solid Works Essentials: Part and Assemblies and SolidWorks Drawings. 


Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce: ISY WE

The In-School-Youth Work Experience customer that is placed at the Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce is doing a great job.  She has learned the following skills: customer service, event coordination, planning, and organization.  She continues to gain skills and was an integral part of helping their Summer Splash event being a success through her hard work and dedication to detail. 


Sterling School Foundation: 1A-WE

We will be completing a Work Experience (WE) with the Sterling Schools Foundation.  Our customer has learned a wide-variety of skills including: website management, adding website content for the Sterling Schools Hall of Fame, learned advanced graphics and data management. video production and editing, expanded writing skills, and master website publishing. 

From the Oregon Office

DC Computers   Dixon, IL

On The Job Training – Megan’s job in the photo processing business in Rockford was eliminated when her employer in Rockford closed their doors. Megan came to us as a Dislocated Worker and we funded her return to school to learn to be a Computer Tech and work with various aspects of computer support. While she was still working on her classes she went to work for Wiggins Computers in Dixon. Wiggins sold his business to Doug Carlson the owner of DC Computers in Dixon and Doug decided to offer to continue Megan’s Internship.  Within a short amount of time Doug opted to convert her Work Experience/Internship to an On The Job Training position**. She is expected to complete her OJT in October and be offered a full time position at DC Computers.

Lee County Council On Aging   Dixon, IL

We had high school student enrolled in our program who was interested in working after school. Susan Lawler, the Executive Director, at LCCOA agreed to bring her on as an intern. In a short time she [the student] became a big help with decorating and assisting with the various fund raisers. The pandemic put an end all of the “people events” the center had done. Susan found other responsibilities for Aliyah. Aliya was so important to the running of the Center that when the offer of an OJT** was made she accepted it immediately. Aliyah completed her OJT April of this year and is an employee at LCCOA.

**Work Experience/Internship vs OJT – Converting someone from an Internship/Work Experience to an OJT means that the employer assumes greater responsibility and the person goes from being paid by BEST, Inc. to being paid by the employer. This also means the employee goes from being limited to 29 hours of work per week to a full work week allowed at 40 hours.

Teen Turf to Gerdes Auto & Truck Sales   Amboy, IL

Matthew started out at Teen Turf assisting with the young kids who attend Teen Turf after school and for the summer program. Sally Hanrahan, the Youth Career Adviser asked that we find another worksite for him after he had been at Teen Turf for about 9 months. She determined that Matthew had an interest in the automotive area and felt he could benefit from “getting his hands dirty”. Tammy Nerkorn knew the Gerdes family and suggested approaching Bill Gerdes about a Work Experience at his Auto and Truck Sales business in Amboy. This turned out to be a great worksite since Bill has given Matthew many of the practical skills involved with working on cars and trucks. Matthew will be attending Northern Illinois University as a freshman this fall with a plan to enter “automobile cad design”.

From the Oglesby/Ottawa Offices

Putnam County Successes

Olivia graduated from Putnam County High School in 2017.    She had taken courses to complete her CAN and passed her CNA certification with honors.   She then began working as a CNA in March 2018.  She enjoyed helping the patients and visiting with them.   She decided to go on to pursue her nursing degree and attended Eureka college for a while and then decided to return to the Illinois Valley and was accepted into the Nursing program at IVCC.  She attained her AAS and also finished her RN courses in Spring of 2021.   She obtained her nursing license and she was hired as an RN at a local hospital.  She is enjoying her new career as a nurse and was grateful for our assistance.


We are currently working with 2 in school youth in the transition program from Putnam County High School who are doing paid work experiences at HyVee.  Both are doing very well and are enjoying their experience.  HyVee has been very accommodating for these students.


Another youth who went through our contracted program with the Regional Office of Education has received her Diploma and is currently working with the hopes of starting her own business.  While yet another one through this contract program will be continuing on this school year in hopes of earning her diploma.  


Janelle has been through a very long rough road.  She originally was in our program back in 2002 as a dislocated worker from Caterpillar and was not able to find employment that met her needs.  She was certified as a CNA and was working in that capacity then decided to try to take more classes toward nursing.  She was not accepted right away so then went back to working as a CNA   She had never lost sight of the goal of becoming a nurse. 

In 2018 she came back to us for assistance toward her RN.  She decided to get her LPN that summer since she had to wait additional time to reenter the RN program due to having to retake some RN classes. She completed and worked as an LPN and then we started funding her for her RN program again in Fall of 2019.   Unfortunately she was diagnosed with cancer in Fall of 19 and had to drop till Fall of 20.  She retook her dropped classes and then in Spring of 20 we were hit with Covid 19.  Classes were primarily on line including clinicals which was not the best learning experience but because of her previous health issues it was a blessing.   She continued classes in Fall and Spring of 2021.   In May of 2021 she graduated as and RN and passed her state testing and got her license and is now working at a local hospital as an RN.


Matt had a client just finish CDL training on Tuesday (August 3) and to say he was grateful for our assistance is an understatement.  He emailed Matt on Friday, August 6 and wanted to share the message:

“Matt you are awesome!!! GOD BLESS YOU Matt. My family thanks you Sincerely. Take care. Stay Healthy & Happy. Smile cause……You Done Good. Send me a message anytime or better yet, text me. I don’t check my Email enough.Thanks again Matt. Later

My good friend. 

Ps…My Salary just increased, because of your financial assistance Matt. Again, You done good. Twice in one message too. What’s that tell you….you ask?YOU DONE GOOD, That’s what. See ya Matt.”

(the guy has a way with words 🙂


BEST, Inc. and EDR 6 Celebrate Signing of their First Apprenticeship Success Under Expansion Grant!

In July 2020 BEST, Inc. was awarded $123,216.00 as part of the State of Illinois’ Apprenticeship Expansion effort to provide outreach to the companies of the 2 workforce areas (LWIA 4 and LWIA 13) within Regional Economic Development Area #6 (Jo Daviess, Carroll, Whiteside, Lee, LaSalle, Putnam, Bureau, Henry, Rock Island and Mercer Counties).  Over these last 12+ months efforts by the Regional Apprenticeship Navigator, Nikelle Tellier, have resulted in: 6 virtual outreach sector events being held, 138 individuals from area companies contact either through the group events or individually via partner referrals, 16 apprentices trained through Title 1 WIOA Incumbent Training Funds with the possibility of an additional 2 more currently in the pipeline and the connecting of a potential registered high school program with interested businesses and training provider.

We are pleased to announce that on June 23, 2021 GrainCo FS, in Ottawa, IL, became the first new Registered Apprenticeship program through this expansion effort. This effort was an outgrowth of an internship program that GrainCo had already established with the help of Illinois Valley Community College.   Working with Nikelle and the US Department of Labor, representatives from GrainCo were easily able to transition the internship program into a hybrid Registered Apprenticeship Program and will be starting their first apprentice in training at IVCC this fall.

We are so very happy that an agricultural related apprenticeship program was our first full success in our expansion project.  Representing primarily rural areas in the Northwest corner of Illinois, EDR 6 is committed to making opportunities happen in the ag/agri-business sector.

Success Story

By Stephanie Christian

            When I first started on the Opioid Dislocated Workers Grant in November of 2020, I had no idea what I would be getting myself into. Over these last eight months, I have had the privilege of working with some of the most amazing people and learning their stories, their progress, and their struggles.

            As a Job Coach for the Opioid Dislocated Workers Grant, my work varied from day to day. On some days I would help individuals with resume building. On other days I would obtain pre-applications and intake information but on most of my days I was building relationships with my participants and the worksites that decided to take a second chance on our participants who have not always had it easy. The one thing that made our participants different compared to any other employee was this: They are being or had been affected by the Opioid Crisis either through themselves, through a family member, or through a friend.

            While learning more and more about our participants in this grant, I began to realize that they suffer from a huge stigma that society has put upon them. This stigma creates a huge barrier for these people and if it was not for this grant, these people would most likely be in a dark place. After learning about this stigma and seeing the negative effect that it has on our participants’ lives, I noticed that I began to change my vocabulary. I would replace words like “drug addict” with “drug user” or “those in recovery”. I also noticed how invested I became to help break this stigma by making others aware that these individuals are just like you and I but that their choices have brought them to where they are today and it is not fair to them that because of this stigma, they do not have a fair advantage with landing a job, finding a home, or being able to move away from their past. I make people aware that these individuals have made a mistake and because of this mistake, society will never let them live it down and it is overdue that instead of society feeding into their past, they help them be brought back to life and help these individuals in moving on and trying to build a better life for not only themselves but their families and their communities as well. This is not an easy task to do but it all starts with having conversations and changing our language.

            Over these last eight months, I have helped our participants with job placements, finding divorce lawyers for low-income families, finding counseling for low-income individuals, and by simply just being there for them by text, call, or email. I have listened to and have seen how far our participants have come because of this grant. This grant has given them another opportunity to change their lives for the better and move in a more positive direction. This grant has brought me together with these people who have changed my life and I will never forget them. Our participants think I am kidding when I tell them that their stories are powerful and they can change the world if they realize how powerful their actions and words are. This position as Job Coach for the Opioid Dislocated Workers Grant has helped shape me for the better and this experience will aid me in my future endeavors of becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor. Through this position, I have found full-time employment at a local counseling center and I am going back to school in the fall of 2021 for Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I have become so invested in our participants’ lives that when I come to work, I look forward to hearing from them, even if they are having a hard time because I know as well as they know that they are strong enough to get through these rough patches. I wish that I would have learned about this grant sooner and started as a Job Coach sooner because eight months is not enough time. I feel like I am losing close friends because that is what this grant has created for me. Close friends, great coworkers, and even better participants. This grant has shown our participants that they are capable of anything if they put their determination in front of their past and I am excited to see how far they will go with these opportunities. I have learned a lot about myself through this grant and it was definitely all a learning experience. With this, I am very thankful for this opportunity and the progress we have made. I will miss all of the amazing individuals I have met along the way but I am also excited for my next stepping stone and that would not be possible without the Opioid Dislocated Workers Grant.

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