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Pritzker announces $44 million investment in workforce training, skills programs for at-risk youth

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Gov. JB Pritzker announced a new $40 million workforce recovery grant program Thursday morning. The state also granted $4.4 million to organizations that help at-risk teens with skills training. Illinois leaders hope this plan can get more people back to work and help some of the industries hit hardest during the pandemic.

The funding from the American Rescue Plan can help organizations with workforce and job training, support services, and basic expenses. For example, Pritzker said the grants could support groups suffering from a worker shortage in hospitality and manufacturing. Funds can also go to high-growth industries like construction, technology, and innovation.

Pritzker noted Illinois is focusing the grants on areas that need it the most for adults who want to enter or re-enter the workforce. Twenty organizations will receive the youth career pathway grants to help roughly 500 children.

"In order to create an Illinois where economic opportunity abounds for all residents, we have to address what's holding them back," Pritzker said.

The governor noted these programs could help people get higher wages and have success in the middle class.

Commission on Workforce Equity & Access

He also announced the formation of a new workforce equity and access commission. That group will work to make current workforce training programs more diverse by addressing shortages and promoting inclusion.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford and the Legislative Black Caucus led the push for this change. She said over 400,000 Illinoisans lost jobs during this pandemic, and many are still out of work.

"They need our help more than ever," Lightford said. "I cannot think of a better way to help residents than to provide essential training to help them regain access to employment and find lasting careers."

Applications for the workforce recovery grants opened Thursday. You can find more information by clicking here. The Pritzker administration plans to give the first $20 million in grants this fall. They expect to have the second round of grants awarded this spring.

"These are the key components of our recovery from the pandemic, and our commitment to build a better Illinois for everyone," Pritzker said.

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Mike Miletich

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