Over the past year or so we have experienced a number of significant transitions and changes in the world of Chicagoland workforce development. For CWFA, some of those changes have been very close to home, like new Senior Leadership at our home organization, The Chicago Community Trust, and at one of our closest partners, The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. Other changes affect us but also so much more, like an exciting new Mayoral administration, and the continuing roll-out of billions of dollars of public investment in infrastructure, manufacturing and technology. This past year also saw the initiation of some projects we have been supporting for some time, always through our partners: the Chicago Jobs Council announced their Anti-racist Workforce Development Framework, Cook County launched The Innovation Nexus, and our Governor’s Office released the reform plans of their Commission on Workforce Equity and Access. What is so promising about 2024 is the opportunity to take all these new beginnings of the recent past and put them to work improving the workforce challenges we continuously face. Here are just a few of the things we are excited to be working on this coming year:

Shifting Good Jobs Chicagoland from planning to implementation: This $18.5 federal grant led by the Partnership on behalf of Chicago and Cook County brings resources to four of the sector partnerships in the Network of Employer-Led Workforce Solutions. We can’t wait to see what these new investments create, from new career pathways in health and public health and new apprenticeships in information technology, to a new manufacturing partnership on the west side.

Shifting Fair Chance Hiring a from a Project to a Movement: We have been proud to support the Corporate Coalition and Cara with the creation and pilot of their Fair Chance Hiring cohort program. But we all know changing the behavior and culture of companies, through cohorts of 6-8 firms at a time will not be enough. This scale is just not commensurate with the harm that multiple decades of racially inequitable over incarceration has inflicted on our communities and our labor market. What gives us hope is the commitment of our partners, and of their partners, to growing Fair Chance Hiring into a movement, where any company not going down this path is an outlier.

Shifting Clean Infrastructure Workforce Investments from Programmatic to Systematic: The amount of public investment that is finally flowing to shift our built environment from extractive to sustainable is a tremendous achievement, one that we think owes a lot of credit to the alliance of environmental and worker justice advocates. Now comes the hard part, implementation of all that investment, and coordination with workforce development investments, such that this shift truly has the worker equity impact the advocates envisioned. We think the key to successful implementation is insisting that clean infrastructure workforce investments not just fund programs in isolated funding stream silos, but rather add to and integrate with a fundamentally under-funded public workforce system. We are excited to work towards that integration, and to bring collaborative philanthropy to the table as a tool to help public funders and workforce organizations succeed together.

And there is so much more that we are excited to work on in the coming year. We hope you will stay connected with us as it moves forward. Thanks as always to all the foundations and funders that work together with and through the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, our impact is always greater when we work together.