Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and County Commissioners Richard Boykin and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia announced today that they will join forces to implement a pilot workforce development and jobs program for 16-24 year olds who are at risk of violence or criminal justice system involvement.
They were joined in the announcement by community service providers and advocates in support of the proposal. President Preckwinkle has committed $1 million of her proposed budgeted $3 million increase in public safety grant funds for the effort.
“I am grateful to Commissioners Boykin and Garcia for their passion on this issue and their partnership on this program to provide meaningful training and sustainable jobs for those who are most at risk,” Preckwinkle said.
“The pilot program will prioritize individuals who have had some involvement in the justice system and provide them with the supports and training necessary to enter into careers that provide a livable wage in growing sectors within Cook County.”
Commissioner Boykin thanked the President for her leadership, “The unemployment numbers among young people in the First District are unacceptable and surely a driving cause of the violence plaguing our city. Jobs are a critical part of the solution. This pilot project will serve as a model to be implemented in Cook County,” he said.
“Jobs are a key component of successful violence prevention strategies and we need to expand these opportunities in the hardest hit communities. Many of the youth in our neighborhoods have enormous potential. This program can expose them to workforce opportunities that can put them on a path to success. I look forward to seeing the impact of the program and finding ways to expand it throughout the County in the coming years.” Garcia said
The program will target up to 300 people ages 16-24 who are disengaged from school and work. The pilot target areas will be in Austin, Back of the Yards and surrounding areas in need.
The program will take a multi-tiered approach focusing on career exploration and awareness for younger individuals, credentialing and qualifications development in the mid-range, and technical training and certification in high-growth industries. All participants will have access to support and wrap-around services as needed.
The County will partner with Chicago Cook Workforce, the County’s Bureau of Economic Development, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System and external stakeholders to design and implement the program.
Planning and implementation of the program will be led by Preckwinkle’s Justice Advisory Council (JAC) “I am honored that President Preckwinkle has asked us to lead this process,” said Lanetta Haynes Turner, Executive Director of the JAC, “We cannot address the issue of violence and public safety in communities in Cook County without addressing employment and economic development.”
The goal is to launch the program before the summer of 2017. President Preckwinkle said the need for immediacy means the planning process will be intensive and require the partnership of both public and private entities.
“We will work to leverage as many existing resources as possible. We will seek partners with expertise and experience, and all County Bureaus and Departments under my office will assess how they can help in this effort,” she said.
Funding for the pilot project and the increase in public safety grants is dependent on the passage of President Preckwinkle’s proposed FY2017 budget.