Priority: Expand effective workforce solutions

To develop a workforce that is skilled, productive and competitive in today's environment, leaders in the Chicago area need to bring workforce systems and strategies to a new level. Required are regional analysis, coordination and flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing needs of employers and individuals. Also needed are accessible “on ramps” to careers as well as education for the least skilled individuals. Programs must prepare workers to contribute to the productivity of employers; evaluation must account for programs’ net effect on the local economy as well as on individual clients.

Click here to explore: Workforce strategy in depth
Grant making in Workforce supports Community Goal #1: Advancing opportunities for human and economic development.
Chicago is the fourth largest metropolitan region in North America and the third largest in the United States. It is home to two-thirds of Illinois’ population and jobs. As an international city, Chicago will continue to grow, attract people, support multiple industries and experience demographic shifts over the next few decades.
Despite Chicago’s strengths, the region’s slow recovery from recession has meant continuing high unemployment and increased structural unemployment, which together point to the need for retraining, skill flexibility, and better labor force matching. Continuing globalization, weakening of organized labor and pervasive technological change will intensify those demands. Such trends will put a premium on educational attainment beyond the high school level and require that workers learn new skills multiple times over the course of their careers. The region’s current workforce system is inefficient, allowing lags between employer needs and supply readiness. Another problem is the mismatch between job opportunities and housing.
The Trust seeks to reduce unemployment and poverty in the Chicago region through implementation of a number of workforce development principles and strategies. These include supporting job training and placement programs that generate economically sound benefits including:
  • Skill training and job placements are made with industries expected to be sustained or grow with the new economy.
  • Individuals are placed in employment positions with livable wages.
  • Workforce training and development systems feature clear economic goals and system performance measures.
  • Clients who enter the labor market with the help of intermediaries do not displace other job seekers.
  • Job trainees obtain enduring, transferrable skills.
  • Workforce programs are linked to employer location decisions and enhance firm productivity.


Grant making in workforce development

The Trust's grant funding seeks to reduce unemployment and poverty in the Chicago region through projects that reduce unemployment and help workers to earn living wages, while strengthening Chicago-area businesses.

In 2013, The Chicago Community Trust awarded grants in this priority totaling $2,025,000.


RFP: Workforce Development & Employee Compensation
Grants will be awarded to proposals from workforce development providers aimed at reducing unemployment in the Chicago region, and from advocate organizations that help workers to receive compensation they are owed.
In the development area, projects might include training programs, counseling, placement or social enterprises that achieve the following:
  • Develop capacity in individuals that will improve the productivity and profitability of firms in which they are hired
  • Develop capacity in participants that is transferrable from one job to another
  • Demonstrate high percentages of participants placed in jobs for which they were trained
  • Provide value-added above conventional firm recruitment and employee development processes
  • Provide workers such that, in their absence, a firm might close or leave Illinois
  • Demonstrate that their job placements do not substitute for other qualified job seekers who may be applying to the same firm
  • Assist persons with weak attachment to the labor force, or whose employment would likely result in savings to other social systems such as law enforcement, health care or public benefits
  • Provide strong economic return on the cost of service provision
In the employee compensation field, projects might include worker education, advocacy, employer education, coalition-building and media relations that achieve the following:
  • Help workers to receive all compensation they are legally owed
  • Help workers to combat workplace discrimination and have equal opportunities for advancement
  • Help workers to maximize their potential in the workplace
  • To the extent possible, work in collaboration with employers
  • Provide a strong economic return on the cost of accomplishing project goals
Grant cycle and applications
The RFP for workforce development is released every November. Proposals are due at the beginning of January. Grant awards will be decided in May.

Contact Us

Please direct all inquiries to Jim Lewis, Senior Program Officer at


You can find more details about grant opportunities, and sign up for email notifications when they open, inside GrantCentral, our new online grant management system. Sign up and create an account for full access to grant programs at the Trust.

Grants in Job Training & Placement
November 16: RFP opens
January 5: Proposals due
May: Award decisions made

Job trainee operating a machine