By Safiyyah Muhammad
Skills for Chicagoland Future, a local non-profit, public-private organization, recently announced since its inception in 2012, it has placed more than 3,000 Cook County jobseekers, considered unemployed and underemployed.
The organization also achieved a milestone when it was recently recognized as a Finalist in the Inclusive Innovation Competition (IIC), created by the Massachusetts of Technology (MIT) Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE).
“As we celebrate this important milestone in Skills’ effort to connect to Chicagoland job seekers with employment, we are honored to have MIT recognize our impact alongside some of the most innovative and forward-thinking organizations in the world,” said Marie T. Lynch, founding president and CEO of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future. She also added, “It’s no secret that many Chicago communities face significant social and economic hardship, and we are proud to put our city on the map as an international leader for solutions that deliver economic opportunity.”
On the South and West sides of the city, where large segments of the African-American population reside, the unemployment rates were noticeably high, according to a online unemployment statistics for Chicago in 2015. The Skills program assisted a large number of participants who lived in those communities. Cherita Ellen, vice-president of business operations and communications said that in 2015, more than 40 percent of candidates who got jobs through the Skills program were from Chicago communities with unemployment rates over 20 percent. She added that more than seventy-three percent of those who were placed (with jobs) in the Skills program were African-Americans, fourteen percent were Hispanic, eight percent were white and five percent fell in the “other” category. More than fifty-eight percent of those individuals who were assisted through the Skills program were considered long-term unemployed she said.
Katrina Williams, 35, a Chicago native, who lives in the Austin community (West side), is one who has successfully benefitted from the Skills program. In 2013 Williams, who previously held a loan processing position in a Community Bank in Mississippi, returned back to Chicago unemployed.
“My family and I left Mississippi in 2013. The bank that I worked for was not a national bank and I was unable to transfer employment. So, for two years I was basically unemployed. The Skills program actually found me through Indeed.com.” Williams said after initial contact with Skills, she was asked to get in touch with a Skills recruiter and over the course of three plus months, and through a series of being trained on how to get jobs through successful interviewing, Williams landed a Loan Support Specialist job with J.P. Morgan Chase. Williams has been with the Chase multibillion dollar banking giant since March of 2015.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, long-term unemployment is defined as when a person has been out of work for more 27 weeks.
A Skills press release said that it was one of 24 finalists in the IIC program, which was selected from more than 1,000 entrants from across the globe. The finalists were selected based on their innovative support of people who earn middle and base-level incomes.
The organization’s goal is to have 5000 job seekers hired by 2018. “To enroll in our job program, most of our job seekers have to go to our website at www.skillsforchicagolandsfuture. com, Ellen said. “Our program has been in the news, social media and we also participate in hiring events. We do provide
internal and external hiring events. After the person is hired, he or she doesn’t have to do a follow-up with our program, but we do a 30-90 day retention follow-up with their employer.”
Ellen said Skills assists job seekers in finding jobs in the banking, retail, hospitality, customer service, hotel, office management, and transportation industries among others. Skills recently held a Seasonal Retail job fair, October 5th and a Customer Service job event was hosted October 6th. The two events were held in their offices, at 191 N. Wacker Dr., from 9 am – 12 pm. Pre-registration was required, Ellen said.