Illinois Works: An Innovative Model to Reinvigorate our Workforce for the Future
The Illinois Works Jobs Program Act was created as a result of Governor Pritzker’s historic $45 billion capital plan and his commitment to expanding equity in Illinois’ construction workforce. Unfortunately, diverse communities have not been adequately represented in the construction industry and the trades and fewer than 10% of apprentices are women or people of color. With this new capital funding set to pave the way for tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade, Illinois Works was intentionally designed to increase equity and opportunity in capital construction jobs.
The Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Office of Illinois Works, with the support of community partners as well as the building trades and construction industry, will deliver three key programs:
- Illinois Works Apprenticeship Initiative: This program opens the doors of opportunity into the construction industry and the trades. It applies to public works projects with an estimated cost of $500,000 or more, including both capital grants and direct capital contracts and awards. For applicable projects, the goal is for apprentices attending apprenticeship programs approved and registered by the U.S. Department of Labor to perform 10% of the total labor hours actually worked in each prevailing wage category OR 10% of the estimated labor hours in each prevailing wage category, whichever is less.
- Illinois Works Construction Pre-apprenticeship Program: This grant program creates, throughout the state, a qualified talent pipeline to fill job opportunities with diverse candidates. This program will deliver pre-apprenticeship skills training through a network of non-profit, community-based organizations, including community colleges, faith-based organizations, and business associations. Applications will be accepted starting the summer of 2021, and grant proposals that provide training for underrepresented populations in the construction and building trades and prepare them for jobs on public works projects are strongly encouraged. Participants of the program will attend tuition-free and receive a stipend and other supportive services to help overcome systemic barriers to entering the construction industry.
- Illinois Works Bid Credit Program: This program incentivizes contractors to increase the diversity of their workforce. The Bid Credit program allows contractors and subcontractors to earn bid credits by employing and retaining apprentices who have completed the IL Works Pre-apprenticeship Program. Bid credits can be used toward future bids for public works projects contracted by an agency of the State.
An expansion of apprenticeship opportunities will not only help boost employment and wages for more Illinois residents but will also yield significant benefits for our economy at large. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the construction sector is projected to grow 12% in the next ten years. On average, jobs in this sector pay $18 per hour to apprentices enrolled in DOL registered apprenticeship programs, and $32 per hour to those that successfully graduate and achieve journeyworker status. Investments in job training in the construction industry also result in significant long-term economic impact for the state totaling $1.2 billion. In fact, for every dollar invested in construction job training, Illinois obtains $11 in social and economic returns.
Through successfully partnering with community stakeholders, the Illinois Works Office will achieve the following goals:
- Provide a career pathway for members of historically underrepresented communities.
- Provide eligible apprentices with the skills for lifelong job security.
- Promote construction as a viable job industry for women, veterans, and people of color.
- Provide the construction industry with a consistent skilled workforce for generations to come.
- Create new partnerships between state agencies and community organizations.
For general program questions, please contact the Illinois Works Office at CEO.ILWorks@Illinois.gov.