CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that Illinois received nearly $15 million in federal Workforce Innovation Funds from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), in partnership with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), received nearly $12 million to implement their innovative workforce development initiatives and the Chicago Workforce Investment Council received $3 million. The funds are part of $146.9 million in Workforce Innovation Fund grants to develop and expand innovative strategies to help Americans return to work. Maintaining a top-notch workforce is critical to ensuring that Illinois remains attractive to growing businesses.
“Putting people back to work is our top priority in Illinois,” Governor Quinn said. “This federal support will bolster our efforts to prepare workers for the changing workplace and continue to ensure Illinois has the strongest workforce in the nation.”
The Workforce Innovation Funds the state applied for are used to deliver workforce services more efficiently, facilitate cooperation across programs and funding streams, and focus on partnerships with specific employers or industry sectors to develop programs that reflect current and future skill needs. DCEO received the $11,999,985 grant for its innovative Illinois Pathways Initiative, which helps to scale regional industry partnerships to the needs of both employers as well as the most vulnerable populations served through the public workforce investment system, including low-income adults and long-term unemployed workers.
“Throughout Illinois, workforce development facilities work with local community colleges to help determined workers learn the skills they need to find employment in their community,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said. “Today’s federal funding will allow these facilities to continue to create and expand innovative and regional solutions to fill critical job openings at growing Illinois businesses.”
The Illinois Pathways Initiative will use today’s grant funds to implement state economic development, workforce development and education policies to establish and support regional public-private partnerships throughout the state, with the initial project focus on the manufacturing sector. Illinois agency partners will work with employers to define career pathways for regional workforces, build regional workforce pipelines and help workers combine basic academic and technical skills to prepare them for immediate entry into skilled employment with industry-recognized credentials. It also will incorporate education systems to help workers along their career path and obtain work-based training, and provide individualized transition and support services.
“Illinois workers and businesses will benefit from the support our programs have received today, and we will continue working each day to ensure our workforce is well-equipped to navigate this economy,” IDES Director Jay Rowell said. “This grant validates our innovative workforce development efforts to leverage industry partnerships to help meet employer needs while expanding opportunities for workers.”
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Illustration by Dieter Braun