Pritzker’s $10M Illinois pre-apprenticeship program supports Illinois trades talent

Eligible Illinois community-based organizations invited to apply now

Dan Rohman teaches his construction trades students how to measure out a board to build a stud wall on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, during class at McHenry High School. The students in the class will build the tiny shops that will house incubator retail businesses on McHenry's Riverwalk at Miller Point.

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched $10 million in funding for the third round of the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program meant to train statewide workers in the trades.

The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program provides training opportunities, expands the talent pipeline, and boosts diversity in the construction industry and building trades, according to a news release. Grantees will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.

“Since we first launched the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program two years ago, hundreds of underrepresented Illinoisans have learned new skills and advanced their careers – further strengthening our world-class workforce that is as diverse as our great state,” said Pritzker in a news release. “As we continue to Rebuild Illinois – from roads and bridges to airports and transit systems – my administration is committed to ensuring that every resident, no matter their background, has the opportunity to take part in our bustling trades and construction industries. This $10 million in additional funding for the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program achieves exactly that – all while centering equity at every turn.”

The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program launched in 2021 with the goal of increasing diversity and access to apprenticeship programs, according to the news release. Comprehensive pre-apprenticeship programs can help participants gain admission to apprenticeship programs, which provide a greater opportunity to obtain employment in the construction trades.

“The opportunities provided by the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program are paramount to ensuring students are given the tools they need to thrive in the workforce,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “We’ve seen a great amount of success from previous rounds of Illinois Works and look forward to assisting pre-apprentices in every corner of Illinois while encouraging participation from historically underrepresented communities through this latest round of funding.”

The latest round of funding will focus on awarding grants in geographic areas without pre-apprenticeship programs, while increasing the representation of underrepresented groups that are not served or are underserved by existing programs, including Asian Americans, veterans, and women, according to the news release. The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program will fund about 45 programs throughout the state including new and existing grantees, serving more than 1,800 residents.

“Illinois has the best workforce in the world – but we need to make sure that people from all backgrounds and all regions have access to the great careers that are in-demand right now,” said state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin. “When we invest in an equitable workforce, we close social and economic gaps that have existed for decades.”

Through Illinois Works, DCEO is expanding its statewide network of providers to recruit, prescreen, and provide pre-apprenticeship skills training, according to the news release. The program 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.

Participants of the program attend tuition-free and receive a stipend and other supportive, barrier reduction services to help enter the construction industry, according to the news release. 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.

Applications are open to all Economic Development Regions including in northern Illinois, with a focus on expanding capacity in the following areas:

• Northeast Region (Region 4) – DeKalb County, DuPage County, Kane County, Kankakee County, Kendall County, McHenry County, Suburban Cook County, Will County

• Northwest Region (Region 6) – La Salle County, Rock Island County, Whiteside County

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, according to the news release.

Experienced and new providers are encouraged to apply, along with existing Illinois Works grantees who propose to serve a different geographic area or Economic Development Region than they were originally contracted to serve. Applicants serving priority Economic Development Regions and underrepresented populations as outlined in the NOFO will be granted extra points during the merit review process.

Qualified entities can apply for grants between $55,000 to $550,000, according to the news release. Applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. Aug. 30. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, visit the DCEO website Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to for application assistance.

To help applicants prepare to apply for funding, DCEO will provide technical assistance in the form of webinars, regional meetings, and FAQ. More information will be posted on the DCEO website.

Signed into law in 2019, the Illinois Works Jobs Program Act is designed to promote diversity, inclusion, and use of apprentices in state-funded capital projects, according to the release. The Act created three major programs: the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program, the Illinois Works Apprenticeship Initiative, and the Illinois Works Bid Credit Program. Together these three programs aim to create a talent pipeline of skilled and diverse candidates to fill new job opportunities created by the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan.

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network provides local news throughout northern Illinois