- Illinois will invest $25 million into a pre-apprenticeship program to build and maintain a diverse set of workers for its Rebuild Illinois projects, the state's Office of the Governor announced.
- The investment is made available by Senate Bill 177, signed into law by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Dec. 10.
- The law, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2020, will create the Illinois Works Preapprenticeship Program, an initiative that aims to ensure "every community in the state benefits" from jobs in the construction and building trades, Pritzker said.
Pritzker and the forces behind the bill appear to be following the inclination many others are acting on to address issues of access and labor. Women's participation in construction, for example, is on the rise, but it's still low; they have a 9.9% participation rate in the industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Apprenticeships are growing in popularity as a solution to both these issues. Several employers have attested to success in using apprenticeships to increase talent pipelines by inviting potential workers into the industry and outfitting them with the skills they need.
Iowa-based employers, in particular, have turned to apprenticeship programs; in fact, the state holds 7,600 programs registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. "There's a changing attitude about apprenticeship programs," Jill Lippincott, project manager with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, previously told HR Dive. "It's not just for trades anymore. These programs offer a great wage, zero student loan debt and a skill you can take anywhere. It's a career pathway that works for business and talent."
Apprenticeships may aid in diversifying industries in a similar way. By creating a diverse talent pool, and pairing diversity efforts with inclusion strategies, it follows that employers can expect to see a more diverse workforce. This will take some intentional effort; a recent report by Third Way revealed African Americans enroll in registered apprenticeships at a lower rate than white and Latino individuals. Just as the Illinois legislation aims to diversify apprenticeship programs, other initiatives with similar intent are appearing. U.S. representatives introduced the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations Amendment Act Oct. 30, for example, to provide grants to pay for transportation and childcare, enabling more women to participate in apprenticeship programs.