Skills for Chicagoland’s Future (SCF) began as a career training program through World Business Chicago in November 2009, before transitioning to Skills for Chicagoland’s Future in September 2012 and shifting the program model to focus on partnering with employers. Prior to this shift, Chicago Career Tech was a train-to-hire program, coordinating classroom training, hands-on learning and direct pathways to employment. After five cohorts of unemployed Chicagoans, the organization found that placement rates for Pathway to Employment programs – pilot programs based on employers providing training in the skill sets they were seeking to hire – were 20-25% higher than for traditional, classroom-based workforce programs designed around Workforce Investment Act Individual Training Account
In early 2011, the predecessor organization Chicago Career Tech (CCT) began working with McKinsey & Company on the evolution of CCT into a demand-driven business intermediary. A working group of key stakeholders was formed, including World Business Chicago, the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, City Colleges of Chicago, and interested funders including Joyce Foundation and Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation, along with support from Civic Consulting Alliance. Over the course of several months, this working group developed a three-year business plan to guide the approach, organizational structure, funding, and overall strategy of the new intermediary, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future.
The demand-driven model that SCF adopted took the focus on employer-driven relationships a step further through building and maintaining employer relationships, securing commitments to hire, and fulfilling identified needs with unemployed candidates. By serving as a bridge between unemployed job seekers and employers that have an immediate hiring need, the organization leverages established relationships with employers to identify opportunities for hiring unemployed job seekers of all income and education backgrounds.
To date, SCF has engaged with more than 25 employers, resulting in 750 commitments to interview and hire unemployed Cook County job seekers through direct placement and/or train-to-hire programs. More than 600 unemployed job seekers have been hired since SCF launched in September 2012, with an increased positive trajectory month over month. Additionally, 150 unemployed job seekers have been enrolled in train-to-hire programs which result in immediate employment upon successful completion of the programs.
SCF has received national interest and is viewed as a successful demand-driven program. U.S. Secretary of Labor Perez recently visited to discuss SCF’s demand-driven approach and opportunities to grow. Organizations who want to add a demand-driven approach are reaching out to SCF as well.