Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program: Unlocking Opportunities with $18 Million in Grants

In an unprecedented move to foster diversity and skill development within the construction and building trades, Governor JB Pritzker, in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), has announced a significant investment exceeding $18 million. This funding is earmarked for the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program, aiming to serve over 1,700 individuals across the state. This initiative is a cornerstone in building a diverse and skilled workforce, ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of today’s construction industry.

Expanding Access to Apprenticeships for Diverse Communities

Launched in 2021, the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program stands as a beacon of hope for many, particularly those from communities historically underrepresented in the trades. The program’s comprehensive approach not only paves the way for participants to gain entry into coveted apprenticeship programs but also ensures they are well-prepared to secure sustainable careers in the construction trades.

Governor Pritzker emphasized the dual focus of the Rebuild Illinois initiative: revamping the state’s infrastructure and cultivating a workforce reflective of Illinois’s rich diversity. This latest funding is a testament to the administration’s commitment to inclusivity and equal opportunity in the labor market.

Lighting the Path to Economic Prosperity

Under the leadership of Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, the program underscores the critical role trades play in the state’s economic health. By ensuring equitable access to apprenticeship programs, Illinois Works is setting a new standard for workforce development, one that recognizes the value of diversity and inclusivity.

Kristin Richards, Director of DCEO, highlighted the program’s success in creating a clear pathway to rewarding careers for participants, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. The program not only equips individuals with necessary pre-apprenticeship skills but also facilitates a smooth transition to full apprenticeship programs, significantly enhancing their career prospects.

Supporting Participants Through Comprehensive Training and Resources

The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship program offers a holistic package to its participants, including tuition-free education, stipends, and a range of supportive services designed to eliminate barriers to entry into the construction industry. Upon completion, participants receive industry-aligned certifications, further qualifying them for registered apprenticeship programs.

Celebrating Success and Looking to the Future

The program’s impact since its inception is undeniable, with leaders like Sen. Assistant Majority Leader David Koehler and Representatives Will Davis and Maurice West acknowledging its transformative potential. Their testimonies affirm the state’s commitment to nurturing a world-class, diverse workforce through the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program.

A Blueprint for Diversity and Inclusion in the Workforce

The Illinois Works Jobs Program Act, established in 2019, serves as the legislative backbone for this initiative, promoting diversity, inclusion, and the use of apprentices in state-funded projects. Alongside the Pre-Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship Initiative, the Illinois Works Bid Credit Program plays a crucial role in creating a skilled, diverse talent pool ready to contribute to the state’s $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan.

In summary, the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program is not just an investment in the state’s infrastructure but a bold step towards a more inclusive, diverse, and skilled workforce. By providing access to education, training, and career opportunities, Illinois is paving the way for a brighter, more equitable future for all its residents.