Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced an $8 million expansion of the Apprenticeship Illinois program. Through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), DCEO will expand innovative and high-quality apprenticeship programs to prepare Illinoisans for jobs in high-demand industries. Through the expansion, 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 of Illinois will leverage $2 million in USDOL 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 while ensuring these training programs are aligned with current labor market/force needs. 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. 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 healthcare to hospitality, tech to transportation, manufacturing and more. The State will seek to launch a new pathway to upskill workers in the creative arts & entertainment industry sector. Through this first-ever pathway, 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. 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. 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. 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 September 15, at 5:00 p.m. Informational webinars will be held on July 13th and July 14th, at 1:00 pm and you can register to participate online. 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.