$18 million awarded to Illinois Works pre-apprenticeship programs


Illinois Correspondent

PARTICIPANTS in the Illinois Works pre-apprenticeship programs attend tuition free and receive a stipend, along with other supportive services to help them enter the construction industry. – Southwestern Illinois College photo

Another $18 million has been awarded to the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship programs, including several in the Metro East.

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced funding for 36 recipients, which serves 1,700 community members. The pre-apprenticeship program was launched in 2021 to increase diversity and access to apprenticeship programs.

For 2023, 84 percent of the participants in the pre-apprenticeship program were Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian or Native American, and 25 percent were women. By comparison, the 2022 apprentices were 31 percent people of color and five percent women.

Pritzker said his administration is committed to building out a talented, diverse workforce. “I couldn’t be prouder to announce that we are dispersing $18 million to expand the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship program, so that even more underrepresented Illinoisans gain access to good-paying jobs in the construction trades,” he said.

DCEO Director Kristin Richards said apprenticeships provide a clear path to good-paying, long-term career opportunities. “The continued expansion and success of the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program is critical to ensuring students, particularly those from underrepresented communities, have the tools and resources they need to thrive,” she said.

DCEO is expanding its network of providers for recruiting, screening and training the pre-apprentices, as well as helping the graduates transition from the program to a full apprenticeship in construction and building trades.

Participants attend tuition free and receive a stipend, along with other supportive services to help them enter the construction industry.

Among the 2024 recipients are Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) in Belleville, whose program was renewed with a $355,542 grant; and Teens Against Killing Everywhere in East St. Louis, whose program was renewed with a $440,000 grant. Programs were renewed in Chicago, Aurora, Joliet, Rock Island, Decatur and many more. New programs were authorized in Rockford, South Holland, Pekin, Joliet, Chicago, Aurora, Rock Island and Lynwood.

“The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program has seen tremendous success since its inception in 2021, and I’m eager to see what lies ahead for the program participants,” said Sen. Assistant Majority Leader David Koehler (D-Peoria). “Pre-apprenticeships change lives, and hundreds of Illinoisans will soon be on the path toward meaningful careers in the construction and building trades industries.”

At SWIC, students enroll for a 10-week training program that gives them hands-on experience and support with industry-recognized certifications. They earn up to $3,300 and receive 14 college credit hours in addition to their certifications and experience. Students must live in Illinois, be 18 years older with a high school diploma or equivalent, have a driver’s license, and pass the interview and drug test. Interested participants can fill out a form online at https://www.swic.edu/community/career-services/services/constructiontradesprogram or contact Jim Moore at jim.moore@swic.edu.

Programs like this have contributed to Illinois’ top ranking in workforce development, which currently is the top leader in the Midwest. Illinois currently has more than 400 registered apprenticeship programs for more than 20,000 active apprenticeships, including those through this program. Missouri was in a different region from Illinois, but ranked sixth out of seven states in its region, a position it has held for at least the last two years.


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