Skills for Chicagoland’s Future Announces New Physical Presence on Chicago’s South Side at Skills’ Fifth Annual Employment Champions Breakfast

Rush University Medical Center, Chicago CRED and McDonald’s honored at event that raised more than $1 million to support returning unemployed and underemployed Chicagoland residents to work

 Skills for Chicagoland’s Future (Skills) announced on Friday, Oct. 4, plans for a physical presence on Chicago’s South Side to better serve neighborhoods experiencing disparities in employment and economic inclusion, set to open in 2020. Skills –  a public-private partnership that meets the hiring needs of employers by offering innovative solutions to place qualified, unemployed and underemployed candidates into available positions – made the announcement at its fifth annual Employment Champions Breakfast that raised a record amount of more than $1 million. The announcement was the kick-off of Skills’ larger neighborhood expansion campaign – initial grantors include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, McCormick Foundation, and United Way of Metro Chicago.

The new South Side physical presence will mark Skills’ first long-term Chicago-based expansion outside of its Loop location. Skills facilitators will work in the community to source, screen and refer South Side candidates to Chicago employers. Skills placed 719 South Side job seekers in 2018, representing 55% of Skills’ total placements that year. The South Side expansion will to allow Skills to help even more local residents access employments opportunities, and it serves as the first step in Skills’ long-term plan for additional expansion sites in Chicago neighborhoods.

“One of the ways Skills wants to increase their reach to unemployed and underemployed Chicagoans for job placement and help employers access talent is to have a new physical presence in the communities we serve,” said Marie Trzupek Lynch, founding president and CEO of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future. “This new physical presence is a symbol of our ongoing commitment to all of Chicago’s neighborhoods. We’re proud to make this announcement at our annual Employment Champions Breakfast that celebrates our partners who helped changed the lives of more than 7,000 people since we started this important work in 2012. We’re following the lead of extraordinary organizations like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois which are making moves to locate in Chicago’s neighborhoods. This location will allow us to support organizations like Blue Cross Blue Shield and all of our employer partners looking for talent from all of Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), which has a longstanding commitment to investing in and serving the needs of the communities it serves, is among those providing support for this new effort through funding and by hiring South Side residents through Skills for positions at the company’s new facility in Morgan Park and other Chicago-area locations.

“We understand the direct positive impact of investing in the community and we’re proud to support Skills for Chicagoland’s Future as the organization increases its hyperlocal presence,” said Steve Hamman, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. “We’re expanding our own footprint on Chicago’s South Side next year by opening a multi-purpose facility in Morgan Park that will allow us to support economic development beyond downtown Chicago and helps us tackle factors, such as joblessness, that can impact health.”

“Skills for Chicagoland’s Future understands that every resident in every neighborhood has an unmatched work ethic, which is why it is critical we continue to close the skills gap and eliminate barriers that prevent too many unemployed and underemployed Chicagoans from participating in our city’s growth,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “As Skills for Chicagoland’s Future expands its physical footprint to Chicago’s South Side, they will increase equity across our communities, helping companies identify and hire residents that face generational poverty and quality of life disparities.”

More than 600 Chicago business, community and workforce development leaders came together for the Employer Champions Breakfast at the Palmer House Hilton, which recognized employers and community organizations that champion and advocate for the unemployed and underemployed across the city. A record $1.1 million was raised prior to the event, with even more commitments secured on-site to support Skills’ first new physical presence on the South Side and the organization’s larger neighborhood expansion strategy to engage deeper with Chicago’s unemployed and underemployed residents. 

“After my first year chairing the board of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, I’m proud to help recognize our employers and community partners who are stepping up to advocate for the unemployed and underemployed in neighborhoods across the city,” said Mark Hoplamazian, Skills board chair and president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

The Corporate Champion Award, which recognizes an outstanding employer partner, was presented to Rush University Medical Center. Rush has hired more than 120 job seekers through Skills since becoming an employer partner in 2013. Rush is also a key partner in Skill’s Pivot to Success program for unemployed or underemployed high school graduates between 18 and 26, which provides youth with an entry-level medical position at Rush, a clear pathway to advancement, social services support and tuition to obtain a related two-year degree at Malcom X College.

The Fast Mover Award, which recognizes an employer partner that has made major commitments to Skills’ mission in a short amount of time, was presented to McDonald’s Corporation. Since becoming a partner, McDonald’s and its independent franchisees have placed more than 80 job seekers. In 2018, in partnership with International Youth Foundation and community partners across the city including Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, McDonald’s made a global commitment to reduce barriers to employment for youth, starting with a pilot in Chicago. This effort also included a $1 million grant to Skills  to develop a new apprenticeship program with City Colleges of Chicago. This award recognizes the efforts of McDonald’s in going above and beyond to provide young job seekers with the resources, network and support to succeed.

The Advocate for the Unemployed Award, which recognizes an outstanding community or non-corporate partner, was presented to Chicago CRED, a jobs-focused violence prevention initiative that works to provide employment, and other support services for men identified as being at the highest risk of being shooters or being shot. Since becoming a partner in 2017, CRED has contracted with Skills to deliver Skills’ “Jobs 101” career guidance and readiness curriculum, which has served more than 80 CRED participants.

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