Illinois Works accepting applications for pre-apprenticeship program funding

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

Chicago Construction News staff writer

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Applications are now open for the second round of the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program funding. The $15 million fund is available for training opportunities, to expand the talent pipeline, and boost diversity in the construction industry and building trades.

Participants attend tuition-free and receive a stipend and other supportive, barrier reduction services to help enter the construction industry. Upon completion of the program, pre-apprentices receive industry aligned certifications which will prepare and qualify them to continue to a registered apprenticeship program in one of the trades.

Eligible applicants include non-profit, community-based organizations, such as industry associations, chambers of commerce, local workforce areas, community colleges, technical schools, and school districts.  Grant awards will range from $200,000 to $550,000 per year.

The deadline to apply for the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program NOFO is the 27th of September of 2022 at 5:00 pm. Additionally, DCEO will be hosting a series of informational webinars. Additional information and registration links can be found here: WIOA Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship NOFO 2022 (illinoisworknet.com)

Approximately $8 million will target increased geographic diversity and participation from diverse groups not represented in current programming through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), and approximately $7 million will be available through a contract extension to current grantees who have excelled at key benchmarks.

“In Illinois, our greatest asset is our people—and we are committed to diversifying our workforce and supporting upward mobility for underrepresented populations,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement.

“The first round of the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program saw incredible results, and I couldn’t be more excited to expand this program to ensure that Illinoisans across the state have access to the resources and wraparound support that sets them up for success.”

Launched in 2021 with the goal of increasing diversity and access to apprenticeship programs, funding goes to pre-apprenticeship programs to help participants gain admission to apprenticeship programs providing employment in the construction trades.

$10 million was awarded to 22 organizations last year, funding 1,000 participants across the state among key target demographics:

Black Hispanic/Latinx Women
Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Enrollment 70 percent 16 percent 22 percent
Percentage of Apprentices in Illinois 9 percent 17 percent 5 percent

Priority geographic areas include the central, east central, north central, northwest, northeast and southwest regions of the state; and priority groups include veterans and Illinoisans of Asian heritage. The remaining $7 million will be available to current grantees who have met key program benchmarks following a thorough review.

“A career in the building trades comes with so many benefits: a living wage, a dignified retirement, and opportunities to excel while helping to build our communities,” said State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). “I am proud to support the Illinois Works initiatives as they continue to invest in our skilled workforce and create more opportunities for people of color, women, and veterans.”

Providers offer structured pathways and manage the program graduates’ transition from the pre-apprenticeship program to a full apprenticeship program in construction and building trades.  DCEO estimates that pre-apprenticeship training programs supported by the grant funds will serve as many as 1,500 participants during the second program year.

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