State increases apprenticeship funding amid difficult job market

Illinois is expanding an apprenticeship program that officials hope will help people in underserved communities learn skills and connect with employers amid a difficult job market.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced a $4.7 million investment in the Illinois Apprenticeship Program, through grants to 25 organizations statewide. They say it’ll allow an additional 568 people to participate in training programs over the next two years. That will bring the total state investment in the program to a record level of $20 million, serving 17,000 participants this year.

Pritzker said the program will bring together employers, community colleges and local workforce partners as COVID-19 puts “an enormous economic burden” on communities.

“These investments are a down payment on the future of Illinois and will help many more of our residents who haven’t previously had access to on the job training the ability to do so,” he said.

The funding includes a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Labor Department. The remainder coming from state workforce development funds.

Michael Negron, acting director of DCEO, said apprenticeships can be be “a powerful gateway into highly skilled, highly paid careers” as Illinois faces record unemployment and economic instability during the coronavirus pandemic.