A worker focuses on a task at a city manufacturing company. Workforce trainings are being offered to manufacturing firms in seven TIF districts through a partnership between the city and the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center. (Provided)

Some small manufacturers can enroll employees in a free job training program to help them deal with the pandemic.

The workforce trainings are offered to manufacturers in seven TIF districts through a partnership between the city’s planning department and the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center.

The trainings will “help small- and medium-sized manufacturers become bigger, faster and more efficient,” said John Bradarich, director of affiliate relations for the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center. The program will be especially valuable for businesses that have had their operations disrupted by market shocks caused by the pandemic, Bradarich said.

Workers at a manufacturing facility. (Provided)

Many small manufacturers have either lost money over the pandemic “or their margins are so razor-thin that if a machine goes down for a day” they could face closure, Bradarich said. The training programs will teach business leaders and employees best practices for how to “come out of the pandemic and know how to handle it,” he said.

“This workforce development initiative will … ensure these businesses come out of the pandemic stronger than ever,” said Planning Department Commissioner Maurice Cox.

The trainings are free for businesses in these TIF districts:

  • 35th/Halsted
  • Greater Southwest Industrial (West)
  • Little Village Industrial
  • North Branch (South)
  • Pilsen Industrial Corridor
  • Sanitary and Ship Canal
  • Western/Ogden Industrial Corridor

Manufacturers must have fewer than 40 employees or $5 million or less in annual revenue to qualify. Up to 14 companies can be enrolled for free in each district. The trainings have different pathways suitable for manufacturing leaders, supervisors and frontline employees, Bradarich said.

The program has five training tracks: safety in the new COVID era, continuous improvement, leadership, maintenance excellence and organizational behavior and strategy. 

The trainings are tailored for small manufacturers who have encountered roadblocks in the past couple of years, Bradarich said. It’s often hard for small companies to dedicate resources to long-term planning and workforce training “without shutting down the operation” since there are so few employees, Bradarich said.

The expertise from the training can become “a drumbeat for the company” that can help businesses rally after a tough year, he said.

“We try to give them a strategic way to plan more and show them how to increase margins, make more money and get more product out the door,” he said.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

CONTACT: pascal@blockclubchi.org