The Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance today announced it will award its first industry-workforce partnership grant to the newly-aligned Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) and ManufacturingWorks.
The grant and partnership were presented to funders, manufacturers and community leaders at WaterSaver’s manufacturing plant in Chicago, in conjunction with World Business Chicago (WBC).

“Strategic collaboration among organizations is critical to ensure the success of our region’s manufacturers,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We must continue to bring together key parties to advance industry and bring jobs to Chicago, particularly in areas like manufacturing, which are critical to the future of economic development in Chicago and the surrounding area.”

The Funder Alliance has chosen to award its first industry-workforce partnership grant to the IMEC-ManufacturingWorks partnership due to the partnership’s focus on building a platform that will drive additional value to both manufacturers and underprepared workers across the city and the region. The grant provides $300,000 – $400,000 annually for two to three years, beginning this fall. The Funder Alliance is a collaborative of 11 workforce development funders working with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment and earnings for underprepared workers in the Chicago region.

“Chicagoland is blessed with both a robust manufacturing sector and an extensive network of manufacturing workforce service providers. This new partnership will bridge those assets in innovative ways in order to address persistent gaps between the region’s workforce and employers,” said Matt Bruce, executive director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance. “Chicagoland’s manufacturers need a skilled workforce to grow and thrive, and the region’s workers need jobs; engaging both underprepared workers and employers in collaborative solutions can solve both challenges at once.”

The new partnership connects IMEC’s federally supported hands-on advisory services to help manufacturers become more productive and globally competitive with ManufacturingWorks’ local expertise in revitalizing and strengthening manufacturing workforce development to meet employer needs. The collaboration, which also includes the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, is expected to grow to incorporate a wide array of services and partner organizations.

Becoming a leading manufacturing hub and creating demand-driven and targeted workforce development are key components of Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, created by WBC at Mayor Emanuel’s request. This partnership represents the deep strategic alignment across key components facilitated by WBC. Now leadership across the Plan will be working with IMEC and ManufacturingWorks on developing a scalable platform for manufacturing service coordination across the region.

“This new collaboration proves the power of what can happen when we, as a region, work together,” said Jeff Malehorn, president & CEO of World Business Chicago. “WBC developed the city’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs to be an inclusive blueprint that brings together all of the various stakeholders to accelerate Chicago’s economy. Bringing together complementing organizations aligned to the Plan to create an environment where manufacturers can flourish is one step in that direction.”

Manufacturing is among the region’s largest and most prominent sectors, accounting for $53.9 billion GRP, with a projected growth rate of 3.3 percent compared to 2.1 percent for the economy as a whole. The shift toward advanced manufacturing brings the need for a skilled workforce and a focus on innovation and research in products and process that this new collaboration will bring along with its growing group of partners.


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