CFL News
June 21, 2019

Access United Hits Several Milestones During First Full Calendar Year

Access United Hits Several Milestones During First Full Calendar Year

Launched in spring of 2017 in partnership with United Way of Metro Chicago, Access United focuses on supporting community organizations in neighborhoods across Chicago and suburban Cook County. This allows these organizations to help clients start new careers in the building and construction industry, with a focus on people of color, women and low-income candidates. Throughout 2018, the program succeeded on multiple fronts, including hitting placement targets, expanding services to community partners throughout the Greater Chicago area and winning several major grants.

Access United placed 20 candidates in eight different construction trades in 2018, successfully meeting the program’s year-one goal. One candidate, Dionte George, enrolled in the IBEW Electricians Trainee program. Through the program, George was placed as an assistant on a construction site at Macy’s Department Store on State Street. After working low-wage jobs in machine operation, George seized on the opportunity. Looking at his future, now he says, “I find myself working hard still and finishing out my apprenticeship, on my way to being a journeyman.”

Many of these candidates were supported by the Barrier Reduction Fund, a grant established in partnership with the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance and the Obama Family Foundation, to support candidates entering the construction trades. Candidates enrolled in established pre-apprenticeship programs, such as Chicago Women in Trades and St. Paul Community Development Ministries, are eligible to receive funding to cover costs associated with joining apprenticeship programs, including tools, boots, classroom fees and textbooks. In 2018 over $50,000 in funds were spent to support over 60 candidates, many of whom succeeded in entering skilled apprenticeships. In addition, 96 percent of these funds supported candidates in the program’s target populations.

Access United’s successes were also recognized by funders, as the program received several major grant awards last year, including the Illinois Tollway, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and AT&T.

Through work with the Illinois Tollway, Access United brought their slate of resources and training to 14 new community organizations in the Greater Chicago region. The program is also planning to work alongside the United Way of Rock River Valley, the Northwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades, and Project First Rate, to serve the greater Rockford area.

In partnership with Chicago Women in Trades, Lakeside Alliance, IBEW Local 134, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and a coalition of community organizations, Access United will support work at the Lakeside Alliance’s South Chicago resource center. As part of the Illinois Talent Pipeline Program, Access United will support case management and curriculum development for candidates seeking to enter the trades from the neighborhoods near the prospective site of the Obama Presidential Center.