$16 million announced for climate works pre-apprenticeship, barrier reduction programs

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has launched $10 million in funding for the climate works pre-apprenticeship program and $6 million for the energy transition barrier reduction program.

Programs will increase training opportunities in the trades and boost diversity in the clean energy trade industries with resources to limit barriers to participation. They will be run through training partners which will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.

Through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), qualified companies can apply for grants, with awards ranging from $3 million to $6.5 million (inclusive of Illinois Climate Works and Barrier Reduction Program funding). Applications will be accepted until June 2, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit the DCEO website. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to CEO.GrantHelp@illinois.gov for application assistance.

To help applicants prepare to apply for funding, DCEO will also be hosting a series of informational webinars:

  • Bidder’s Conference: April 26 from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. [Register here]
  • Technical assistance workshop for first-time applicants: May 9 from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. [Register here]

The Climate Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program will prioritize underrepresented populations and people living in communities that have historically faced economic and environmental barriers, bolstering a diverse workforce in the clean energy industry. The Climate Works program will be bolstered by Barrier Reduction Program funding, which will provide services for participants to address common barriers for underrepresented populations such as transportation, childcare, supplies, and other expenditures that often amount to roadblocks to success.

“Supporting Illinois’ strong, diverse and qualified workforce is among DCEO’s highest priorities as we build our clean energy future and grow our economy,” said DCEO Director Kristin A. Richards. “Climate Works doesn’t just offer training opportunities in the clean energy sector – it also provides comprehensive support, and funding to eliminate economic barriers to sector access.

“This pre-apprenticeship program relies on nationally recognized credentials to train the workforce, and is designed to help participants succeed while creating a more diverse workforce pipeline. Thousands of future Climate Works participants will help push Illinois toward securing a carbon-free future.”

The pre-apprenticeship will align with needs of clean energy employers in the construction and building trades, provide students with nationally recognized certifications, and provide a pathway to an apprenticeship in the growing renewable energy, electrification and energy efficiency industries. The program will also provide access to educational and career counseling along with hands-on learning that will reinforce foundational professional skills taught in the classroom.

Regional centers serving the Chicago metropolitan area, Northern /Central Illinois, and Southern Illinois will recruit, prescreen, and provide pre-apprenticeship skills training, for which participants can attend free of charge, receive a stipend, and access to support services through the Barrier Reduction Program.

People of color, women, and other underrepresented populations have historically been significantly underrepresented in apprenticeship programs.

The program is expected to enroll 500-700 pre-apprentices during its first year, with capacity increasing over the course of the program. Climate Works will help participants secure good-paying clean energy careers in construction, installation, maintenance and repair activities after being trained on topics specific to clean energy such as solar PV basics and building energy efficiency.

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