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Organization plans location on South Side

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) last week announced 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.

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MARQUIS PITTS, ENVIRONMENTAL service tech at Rush University Medical Center, shares how his goals and plans have become clearer since Skills for Chicagoland’s Future connected him to Rush. (Photo courtesy of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future)

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 percent of Skills’ total placements that year. The South Side expansion will allow Skills to help even more local residents access employment 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 change 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 (BCBSIL), which is making moves to locate in Chicago’s neighborhoods. This location will allow us to support organizations like BCBSIL and all of our employer partners looking for talent from all of Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

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MORE THAN 600 Chicago business, community and workforce development leaders came together for Skills for Chicagoland’s Future’s fifth annual Employment Champions Breakfast. (Photo courtesy of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future)

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.

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