BRONZEVILLE — Chicago Women In Trades’ new pre-apprenticeship program, Women Build Illinois, is looking for residents for the 10-week program.
The program aims to get more women in the trade industry. It was made possible through a $9.6 million grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity as part of the Illinois Works initiative.
“We really want to prepare women to get into union apprenticeship programs, particularly more women of color, because we’re finding less women of color are entering these fields,” said Sharon Latson-Flemister, Chicago Women In Trades’ director of marketing and communications.
According to a 2020 report from the Illinois Department of Labor, only four percent of Illinois apprentices are women and only 29 percent are people of color.
With an overrepresented number of women of color in service jobs with little room for advancement, a career in the trade industry can offer women a living wage and a chance to grow, Latson-Flemister said.
Participants must be over 18 with a driver’s license, high school diploma or GED, birth certificate and vaccination card. There will be a mandatory drug test.
“This program will allow women to get hands-on experience. They’ll spend a week with a carpenter, or a week with a bricklayer, or an electrician,” said Latson-Flemister. “So it’s going to be more immersive.”
After the 10 weeks, participants are encouraged to apply for open apprenticeships, which open once a quarter. Chicago Women in Trades offers assistance with application fees and tools. Participants will also receive a $10/hour stipend to help with transportation costs.
Chicago Women In Trades’ partnership with the Englewood Women’s Initiative — which offers mental health support and homelessness programs — allows the organization to help those in need of wraparound services, which improve a participant’s chance of finishing the program.
Many of the hundreds of women who have completed apprenticeship programs throughout Chicago Women In Trades’ 40-year existence return to become instructors or mentors, said Latson-Flemister.
“Women can start off in their apprenticeships at $19/hour and by the time they reach journey level status, they are full union tradeswomen and can make as much as $60 an hour, and any overtime that comes wit it,” said Latson-Flemister.
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