State announces $40 million investment in workforce training

(The Center Square) – Illinois is providing $40 million for a workforce recovery program aimed at helping job seekers get back to work and small businesses in industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic rebuild their employee base.

The funds will go toward expanding job training, support services and help cover expenses that may prevent people from being employed. Funds will also be available for industries that are still reeling from the pandemic, like hospitality and the construction trades.

“This pandemic has brought unprecedented hardship to our state, increasing unemployment and exacerbating existing inequalities and access to economic opportunity,” said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood.

Officials anticipate 1,500 Illinois unemployed, underemployed, or underrepresented citizens in disproportionately impacted areas will receive services through the program.

“We are focusing on getting people back to work in ways that build careers that are meaningful and bring home good-paying jobs for their families,” said the acting director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Sylvia Garcia.

The $40 million for the workforce recovery program comes from money Illinois received through the American Rescue Plan Act.

The state is also releasing $4.4 million in career training grants for at-risk youth. The investment will go to 20 partner organizations that serve at least 500 youth throughout the year.

Some of the organizations receiving youth career pathway grants include Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois ($325,000), Peoria Public Schools ($202,648), YMCA Metropolitan Chicago ($299,595), and Southeastern Illinois College ($98,718).

The state has also formed the Commission on Workforce Equity and Access what officials say is designed to establish an accessible and effective state workforce system “grounded in an understanding of use and stakeholder experience, including how racial, social and geographic inequities inform experience and outcomes across Illinois’ federally and state-funded workforce programs.”

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