Obama Family Fund Builds Inclusion in Chicago’s Construction Trades

Obama Building Equity Fund connects women, communities of color to #Chicago building trades Tweet This

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Former President Barack Obama and his family are committed supporters of apprenticeship and career pathway programs for young adults. They also understand how under-representation in the building trades is a persistent problem among communities of color and among women—especially Chicago’s African-American community.

That’s why, in the spring of 2017, the Obama family made a $1 million gift to the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance to support a “generational shift” in Chicago’s building trades workforce.

In accordance with their instructions, the Funder Alliance—a funder collaborative housed at The Chicago Community Trust— used that gift to establish the Obama Building Equity Fund. After a planning period working in tandem with the Chicago Jobs Council, the Funder Alliance is now moving forward from planning into implementation.

The core strategies of the Obama Building Equity Fund will be:

Establishing a Barrier Reduction Fund. Together with the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, the Funder Alliance is creating a fund that will be deployed, by multiple partners, to reduce barriers to an individual’s success in the building trades.

Supporting building trades workforce programs. The planning period confirmed that programs supporting individuals along their building trades career pathway can be highly effective. Beginning in December 2017, funding will be awarded to organizations for new or existing programs, through an open RFP process.

Organizing buyers and builders. The Funder Alliance is committed to aligning investments with larger efforts to move the construction sector towards greater workforce equity. Organizing efforts for both construction buyers (public, private, institutional) and builders (contractors and sub-contractors) are now in the planning stages.

Aligning with the Career Pathway System. The Funder Alliance has been working to strengthen the Chicago region’s Career Pathway System, ensuring that all Cook County young adults have the information, guidance and support they need to make their best choice among multiple pathways to post-secondary success. A small portion of the Fund will be used to help ensure that building trades pathways are well represented at the critical transition point between secondary and post-secondary systems.


Grant proposals are now being accepted from organizations providing building trades workforce programs. Proposals must be received by November 9, 2017. Find complete details and application instructions in the Request for Proposals (RFP).