ICC Awarded $1.2 Million in Statewide Workforce Equity Initiative Grant

Illinois Central College has been awarded a $1.2 million grant by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) to continue implementing the statewide workforce equity initiative (WEI) program. ICC will remain the lead college of the $18.7 million initiative as it partners with 17 additional Illinois community colleges.  

The ICC Workforce Equity Initiative focuses on improving workforce inclusivity by providing a credential and a living-wage job for adults residing in disproportionately impacted areas (low income, low employment, high crime). African American participants must represent a minimum of 60 percent of the population served by the grant due to their underrepresentation in high-demand, high-wage careers. The initiative addresses local workforce gaps and employment barriers to prepare underserved individuals with a highquality and equitable employment opportunity. The end goal is for participating students to secure full-time employment in a job paying at least 30 percent above the regional living wage. 

“This grant allows ICC to continue removing barriers for the underserved and disadvantaged. We are further able to impact the lives of those in our community and the regional workforce,” said ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey. “When adults earn credentials with labor market value, it not only changes the trajectory of their lives, but also the lives of their families; while growing the workforce, expanding businesses and creating a more vibrant regional economy.” 

ICC first announced the launch of WEI, in partnership with ICCB and Deputy Majority Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth, in 2019. Since then, ICC has enrolled 170 individuals in the WEI program with 78 percent of the participants African American. Eighty-six students successfully completed the program with 46 participants employed at full-time jobs. In its first year, ICC and 14 partner Illinois community colleges have collectively served 2,365 individuals with 1,840 being African American students. Of these participants, 948 students completed the program with 590 employed at full-time jobs.  

This program is aligned with the Regional Workforce Alliance. The Alliance is a collaboration between businesses, chambers, economic development agencies, community-based organizations, labor unions and education dedicated to ensuring at least 60 percent of regional adults have a post-secondary credential with labor market value aligned to regional workforce needs.  

The Workforce Equity Initiative trains participants in the high-demand occupations of CNC Operator, Production Welder, HVAC Installer, HVAC Technician, CDL Truck Driver, Local Area Network (LAN) Technician, CompTIA A+ (Computer Basics), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Central Sterile Service Technician. 

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