State commits $13 million for pre-apprenticeship program expansion

The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program launched in 2021 with the goal of increasing diversity and access to apprenticeship programs and good-paying jobs in the trades for historically underrepresented populations, including minority population and women.

Gov.  J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) have awarded $13 million to 30 recipients to expand the Illinois Works Pre-apprenticeship Program, which creates a qualified talent pipeline of diverse candidates in construction and the building trades.

The program’s second year expands access to the program across the state and will serve up to 1,400 pre-apprentices — a 40 percent increase from the program’s inaugural year.

“The Illinois Works program aims to break barriers down for more women and people of color to take advantage of the thousands of jobs created by our state’s nation-leading infrastructure investments, while simultaneously creating a sustainable pipeline of qualified workers for an industry that is booming,” said Pritzker. “These are the types of strategic investments that ensure we have a workforce ready to take the jobs available right now in fields that offer growth for the future. And most importantly, it keeps our state’s best assets — our people — at the forefront of economic progress.”

The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program launched in 2021 with the goal of increasing diversity and access to apprenticeship programs. Comprehensive pre-apprenticeship programs help participants gain admission to apprenticeship programs, which provide a greater opportunity to obtain employment in the construction trades and secure long-term employment.

During the first program year which concluded in December 2022, Illinois Works awarded nearly $10 million in funding to 22 organizations, supporting 1,024 participants across the state – the vast majority of whom come from diverse backgrounds.

“Opportunities represent growth, the path to becoming your best self, and the ability to contribute to one’s family and community. This program provides that kind of life-enhancing chance for people from diverse backgrounds and regions,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. “Thank you to the governor and DCEO for continuing to involve local government and stakeholders, along with developing legacy partnerships, in order to provide programs and jobs that broaden access for all people to be part of work that builds a better Illinois.”

As outlined in statute, the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship program was specifically designed to increase access to good-paying jobs in the trades for historically underrepresented populations. The inaugural class of pre-apprenticeships far exceeded the diversity of apprentices in Illinois overall.

The inaugural class of pre-apprenticeships far exceeded the diversity of apprentices in Illinois overall by percentages: 85 percent — Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, Native American, 85 percent and women, 21 percent.

Through Illinois Works, DCEO is expanding its statewide network of providers to recruit, prescreen, and provide pre-apprenticeship skills training. Equally important, the program providers offer structured pathways and manage the program graduates’ transition from the pre-apprenticeship program to a full apprenticeship program in construction and building trades.

Participants of the program attend tuition-free and receive a stipend and other supportive, barrier reduction services to help enter the construction industry. Upon completion of the program, pre-apprentices receive industry aligned certifications which will prepare and qualify them to continue to a registered apprenticeship program in one of the trades.

“Apprenticeships lead to stable, good paying careers and the Illinois Works program increases access to this critical pathway for historically underserved communities,” said DCEO Acting Director Kristin A. Richards. “We’re excited to expand the program to more locations across the state and serve more students as we work build a pipeline of diverse, qualified apprentices.”

“We’re thrilled to continue training and shaping the future of the construction industry,” said Jacqueline Gomez, executive director, HACIA. “Through the Illinois Works Program, HACIA provides underserved communities with real hands-on experience and exposure to industry leaders to help them build their own toolkit to successfully transition into DOL registered apprenticeships and other employment opportunities within the construction industry.”

The next construction pre-apprenticeship program begins on Feb 13.

Learn more and register at

“We’re thrilled to have Illinois Works Pre-apprenticeship programs continue in the Metro East region through Southwestern Illinois College and a new program administered by Teens Against Killing Everywhere,” said State Sen. Christopher Belt (D- Swansea). “By providing people with support and training, we’re opening the door for Illinoisans to secure stable, good-paying careers in a high-demand industry.”

Organizations like HACIA “help Illinoisians gain the skills, training and support they need to excel in DOL-registered apprenticeship programs and beyond,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin)

State Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood) added, “Addressing the systemic opportunity gap in our work force will be a long-term, collaborative effort, and while we are just beginning, the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship program is off to an encouraging start. Expanding the program to serve more communities is vital to the State’s long-term workforce goals and efforts to open up the building trades to communities who in the past have not had access to these opportunities.”

“A strong and just economy is built on ensuring all Illinoisian have real opportunities to secure good-paying jobs,” said State Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago).