Exciting Times for the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance

by Molly Baltman-Leonard, Assistant Director/Grantmaking, Communities Program

In May 2017, the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance, a collaboration of foundations and corporate funders focused on employment equity, received a $1 million personal gift from President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. The Obama’s donation will support an effort to open apprenticeship pathways into the building trades for adults, especially young adults, who have been underrepresented in the trades sector.

In partnership with the Obama Foundation, the Chicago Jobs Council, and a variety of other foundations and corporate partners, the Obamas’ gift will help to identify and solve workforce challenges within the Building Trade Sector such as:

  • Capturing better data on diversity and inclusion.
  • Coordinating leadership from "construction buyers" to support shared solutions and track progress in the sector as a whole.
  • Designing and supporting effective career pathways for young adults to access jobs and apprenticeships as alternatives to four-year higher-education institutions.

Formed in 2012, the Funder Alliance collaborates with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment, earnings, and race equity for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. The Alliance is built on the notion that a skilled workforce creates more successful businesses, more stable families, and a stronger economy. As one of its shining beacons, Matthew Bruce believes, “workforce development is at its core community development, because with a strong labor force a community can invest in itself and thrive.”

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