A new career training program at four City Colleges of Chicago will give West Siders the opportunity to earn a professional certificate from at no cost to them, thanks to Workforce Equity Initiative grants the colleges received a few months ago. The grants are designed to boost the number of minorities who are represented in high-demand fields.

The free short-term certificate programs offer credit hours in a variety of “high-skilled, high-wage and in-demand occupations,” according to a statement City Colleges released in September. Kennedy-King College, Olive-Harvey College and Malcom X College each got $1.5 million while Wright College got $1 million. 

Wright College’s funds “will support the school’s JobHire initiative, a tuition-free, short-term job training program, which leads participants to meaningful certifications in advanced manufacturing, information technology and public safety,” the statement explained. “The program aims to serve students in the Austin community.” 

The program at Olive-Harvey will use the funds to support students in basic certificate programs in areas like auto-diesel repair, general warehousing and custom computer programming services. The training will take place at the college’s newly opened Illinois Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Center. 

Kennedy-King will use the funding to offer training in automotive technology, collision, construction, hVAC and cyber-technology, the statement explains. 

Malcolm X will use its money to “increase the number of African American students from communities on the West Side of Chicago who enroll in and complete six basic certificate programs — community health worker, cybersecurity, emergency medical technician, personal fitness, phlebotomy and sterile processing.” 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that the city is dedicated to expanding “meaningful work experiences” for young people while they’re still in school.

“Career-relevant learning and post-secondary credentials play a vital role in creating new pathways to economic opportunity for Chicagoans and helping our communities thrive.” 

City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado thanked the state of Illinois for the funding, which is designed to enhance equity across the city. 

“These funds will help ensure we can serve students who most need the opportunity to quickly secure in-demand jobs and move up the income ladder.” 

The Workforce Equity Initiative Grant was made possible through the Illinois Community College Board and legislation sponsored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. 

The caucus was responsible for appropriating a total of $18.7 million in fiscal year 2020 for the equity grants. All 48 community colleges in Illinois were encouraged to apply. The grant is designed to increase the numbers of minorities, particularly African Americans, in “in-demand, well-paying jobs in a variety of fields,” Jonas said.

According to the Illinois Community College Underrepresented Report, which evaluates the degree of access to educational opportunities and diversity among community colleges in the state, African Americans accounted for only 12 percent of Career and Technical Education (CTE) program graduates in the state in fiscal year 2017. Minorities, in general, accounted for 34 percent of CTE program graduates that fiscal year.

The Black Caucus does have one major requirement for community colleges that take the equity grant money — at least 60 percent of the program participants have to be African American.

To learn more about City Colleges and to apply for the programs, visit ccc.edu or call 773/COLLEGE. 

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