The state this month announced an $8 million expansion of the Apprenticeship Illinois program.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will expand innovative and high-quality apprenticeship programs to prepare Illinoisans for jobs in high-demand industries.
The state aims to serve an additional 750 apprentices across key industries, with plans to reach underserved populations as well as industries heavily impacted by COVID-19.
The state says it will leverage $2 million in United States Department of Labor funding under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and $6 million of additional funding under the USDOL State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity and Innovation grant program, to develop innovative new pathways in communities throughout the state. The training programs are to be aligned with current labor market/force needs, the state said.
The state will also seek to boost capacity of existing apprenticeship pathways in all sectors which are offered in partnership with hundreds of employer-led navigator partners across the state.
The investments are intended to help “more Illinoisans get back to work in well-paying jobs, while developing strong talent pipelines for the future,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.
DCEO will expand apprenticeship opportunities geared toward restoring the creative arts and entertainment sector, while increasing training opportunities for underserved populations.
Apprenticeship expansion dollars will also grow the capacity of pathways currently offered and which have been impacted during the crisis – including those ranging from health care to hospitality, tech to transportation, manufacturing and more.
Expanding the Apprenticeship Illinois program will provide workers access to comprehensive training and credentials “for jobs Illinois employers are looking to fill today,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia.
The state will supplement funds for workers in the creative, hospitality and service sectors to participate in training programs that build capacity for underrepresented populations for jobs in these industries. The program was informed by a workforce study conducted by the Arts Alliance of Illinois, which found over 60 percent of workers from arts related businesses and organizations in Illinois have either been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic.
“The arts and entertainment industry was among the first to be shuttered due to COVID-19, forcing devastating consequences for workers in every corner of Illinois,” said Claire Rice, executive director of the Arts Alliance. “New investments by the state to develop first-ever apprenticeship training pathways come at a crucial time and will help as we work to achieve greater diversity in our industry.“
To increase equity in the workforce, DCEO and its partners will also leverage program expansion dollars to increase apprenticeship participation by underrepresented populations – including low-income individuals, older workers, women, returning citizens, persons with disabilities, veterans, youth and more.
To reach more residents across the state, particularly in underserved communities, DCEO will utilize the DCEO navigator and intermediary partnership models first piloted last year, and as a result of the Pritzker administration’s efforts to invest an additional $4.7 million to grow the program. These apprenticeship partners will work to recruit from areas of the state which are underrepresented – including rural areas – and to prioritize diversity and inclusion within the Apprenticeship Illinois community.
Belleville company affected
“The apprenticeship program provides a standard of excellence in the development of valuable, marketable skills for our teammates, while providing access to opportunity for people within our community who may not have had that access through any other means,” said Jeff Horvath, vice president of TerraSource of Belleville. “That is a win for our company and a win for the individual – these apprenticeships let us “grow our own” talent, adding good jobs to the St. Clair County and Metro-East St. Louis economy by filling roles that are critical to the growth of our business.”
The Apprenticeship Expansion Program design is centered on supporting businesses and individuals. Expanding apprenticeships helps businesses with their current and future workforce needs as well as individuals with a career pathway, which includes work-based learning. DCEO will accept proposals that expand registered apprenticeships in Illinois. A fundamental goal of this NOFO is to increase apprenticeship opportunities for minorities and targeted populations that are underrepresented in registered apprenticeship occupations in Illinois.
“We have more than a thousand employers in our community that provide our students with workplace learning opportunities with the goal of helping to develop their talent pipeline,” said Dr. Lazaro Lopez Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning for High School District 214, in Arlington Heights, Illinois. “Many of these employers are engaging with our district to offer youth apprenticeships as a workforce development tool. Students are ready for their future by gaining valuable work experience, earning competitive wages and industry credentials without taking on student debt, with a pathway to economic mobility right in our backyard.”
Funding will be provided for 10 -12 navigators and 16-20 intermediary grantees, who will develop industry aligned curriculum to train participants; and navigators who will work with employers to match residents to skills training opportunities. Applicants will be prioritized based on the quality of their proposal, demonstrated plans to serve targeted populations outlined in the Illinois WIOA Unified Plan, as well as projects to serve industries recovering from the pandemic.
In addition to expanding apprenticeship networks throughout the state, the Pritzker administration is focused on building apprenticeship capacity in a number of ways. This includes the launch of the apprenticeship tax credit program to incentivize apprenticeships at small and large sized businesses, creation of new apprenticeship networks in all ten economic development regions, and the work to stand up the Illinois Works program within DCEO, which will soon launch additional grants to expand pre-apprenticeship training programs in the trades.
The NOFO application is located on Apprenticeship Illinois website, with a deadline of Sept. 15, at 5 p.m. Residents and employers seeking to join the Apprenticeship Illinois program may also visit the website ApprenticeshipIllinois.com to learn more and to find their local apprenticeship navigator.