Illinois to expand apprenticeship program for 17,000 with $4.7 million investment – Pritzker

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The expanded apprenticeship program seeks to help the state expand programming to underrepresented communities. (Photo from Southwestern Illinois College)

An expanded Illinois Apprenticeship Program will support more than 17,000 apprentices in 2020 with a $4.7 million investment, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced on July 14. The program will serve an additional 568 residents in training programs over the next two years.

To help more Illinoisans take part in apprenticeship training programs aligned with high-demand career fields, the administration is awarding grants to 25 organizations across the state to expand training programs and employer partnerships, with an emphasis on growth in underserved communities. With additional grant funding to sustain and expand the program, the Illinois Apprenticeship Program will see a record level of investment of $20 million and will serve a record 17,000 participants in 2020, the governor’s office said in a statement.=

“Amidst one of the most difficult job markets in a generation, Illinois is expanding our state Apprenticeship Program to bolster training opportunities and employer partnerships through today’s $4.7 million investment. These investments are a down payment on the future of Illinois and will help many more of our residents who haven’t previously had access to on the job training the ability to do so,” Pritzker said.

“While COVID-19 has placed an enormous economic burden on many of our communities, we want job seekers to know they aren’t alone in navigating this crisis. That is why our apprenticeship programs involve Illinois employers, community colleges, local workforce partners, and so many others working together to expand job training programs and to do it in a way that is equitable.”

DCEO is awarding grants to 25 partner organizations through a new $4.7 million investment, made possible by a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor awarded to DCEO as well as $1.9 million in discretionary workforce funds invested by the state. These investments will pave the way for training in new industries, while also helping more residents in underserved communities to unlock jobs in high-demand and highly paid career fields. Investments announced today to increase capacity, along with a $5 million investment in the Apprenticeship Tax Credit and $10 million for the historic Illinois works initiative bring the total investment to a record $20 million for 2020.

“While Illinois weathers record unemployment and economic instability due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we know that apprenticeships can be a powerful gateway into highly skilled, highly paid careers,” said Michael Negron, Acting Director of DCEO. “To expand opportunities for all Illinois residents, Governor Pritzker continues to make investments in growing partnerships with community colleges, community-based organizations and corporations with an interest and a commitment to helping more Illinois residents reach the next step in their career.”

New apprenticeship partners were selected through a competitive review process geared toward helping the State expand programming to underrepresented communities. Through the expansion, apprenticeship intermediaries will begin to operate for the first time in DeKalb, Sterling, Rock Island, Moline, Rockford, and Springfield. These investments will also provide existing programs serving underserved communities with additional capacity. DCEO partners currently offer programming in East St. Louis, Southern Cook County and Southern Illinois.

The grants will fund 17 organizations that serve as apprenticeship intermediaries and develop and deliver industry aligned curriculum to train participants; intermediaries include community colleges, local governments, and community-based organizations. The investment will also fund a total of eight navigator organizations that work with company-based apprenticeship programs to match them with participants in high-needs areas. A full list of new apprenticeship partner organizations is available on DCEO’s website.

Program participants will have access to apprenticeship training opportunities spanning a wide range of industry professions, with program availability dependent upon region. New programs focused on in-demand industry areas such as IT and medical assistance offer apprentices access to new certifications and high paying jobs.

New investments to expand the State’s apprenticeship programs adopt an equity centric approach following a dual review of the Illinois Apprenticeship Programs earlier this year. In the first review, DCEO conducted a statewide analysis of apprenticeships and work-based learning programs that revealed disparities in apprenticeship program participation – with the vast majority of participants, 85 percent, not including women, people of color or other underserved populations. In a complementary report, partner workforce organizations, Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) and Young Invincibles (YI), developed a roadmap for ensuring apprenticeships are diverse and accessible to all people.

“With the economy in disarray and workers facing an uncertain job market, ensuring apprenticeship opportunities are available to everyone is more important than ever,” said Angela Morrison, policy associate for Chicago Jobs Council.“The State of Illinois’ plans to bring new apprenticeships to communities and residents that have been historically underserved is a step in the right direction to improving access for residents to earn and learn.”

The reports concluded that apprenticeship intermediaries and navigators are an important strategy for increasing the number of diverse participants and increasing engagement from underserved communities. DCEO has seen an uptick in statewide participation in recent years, with programs serving an additional 900 participants since 2019.

Residents or employers interested in joining the Illinois Apprenticeship Program may visit www.ApprenticeshipIllinois.com to learn more about apprenticeship eligibility and pathways available across a variety of industries in Illinois.

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