It’s the same refrain across the country: open apprenticeship slots are just waiting to be filled. In Chicago, contractors are teaming up with developers, unions and the United Way to do something about it.
Dubbed as the “first-of-its-kind industry and labor partnership,” the coalition this month launched HIRE360, a regional workforce development and small business support program. It will initially focus on the construction industry but will eventually add programs for the manufacturing, hospitality and professional services sectors.
The organizations have banded together hoping to create a more effective “ecosystem” for recruiting, training and placement assistance--hence the “360” in the initiative’s name, said Charise Williams, director of external affairs for the Chicago Federation of Labor and a HIRE360 board member.
“For years, labor unions and the development industry have worked to increase diversity in the trades through one-off, unconnected programs,” Williams said. “We haven’t made the progress we need. HIRE360 changes that by bringing together business and labor to create a pathway for underrepresented communities to access these jobs and the support needed to thrive in them.”
For the building trades, HIRE360 will provide resources for individuals including test preparation and assistance; money to buy boots, books and tools for apprenticeships; case management services; referrals to jobs; and support throughout the apprenticeship process.
“Our industry--and our city--is stronger when we come together to address barriers to entry and help pave the way for the next generation of builders,” says Michael Meagher, president of McHugh Construction, vice president of the Chicagoland Associated General Contractors and another HIRE360 board member. “With the commitment each of our partners brings to this project, there’s a tremendous opportunity for the many people and organizations HIRE360 can support.”
HIRE360 will also mentor and grow minority business enterprise and women business enterprise firms in an effort to “create a supply chain of partners that are accountable to higher participation standards.” In August, the coalition launched a fund to offer lines of credit to help such businesses better compete for construction work.