$1 million Google grant supports job training on South and West sides

The money will help a collective of 16 organizations “shrink the wealth gap in Chicago.”

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Cleophus Lee

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A collective of job-training organizations in the Chicago area has announced a $1 million grant from Google to expand services on the city’s South and West sides.

The technology giant, which has 1,600 employees in Chicago, is providing the money to the Community Based Organization Collective, consisting of 16 organizations that offer job training and referrals.

The groups “have made the conscious decision to come together to shrink the wealth gap in Chicago,” said Cleophus Lee, who started March 15 as the collective’s first executive director.

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Lee said projections show that skills in technology will be needed across many occupations, including those in banking, manufacturing and customer service. He said Google’s money will help the collective expand services in areas with the highest unemployment.

Rob Biederman, Google’s head of government relations and public affairs in Chicago, said the company has been “inspired” by the track record of the job-training groups. The money will be provided in stages as the collective hits performance benchmarks.

“We’re very focused on creating new pathways for careers in technology,” he said.

Prior Google grants have supported programs in the Chicago Public Schools and at the City Colleges of Chicago. Google is the main operating unit of the holding company Alphabet.

“Not everyone needs a four-year degree to get a job in technology,” Biederman said.

Lee said the money will allow the collective to reach about 400 job seekers beyond the hundreds its members already serve and to place an additional 200 in permanent work.

Also, the collective will set up a central point of contact for companies seeking talent from historically marginalized areas. About 30 hiring events are planned and the collective plans to increase other support for job seekers.

The public-private agency World Business Chicago also is chipping in, sending $100,000 to the collective. The donor promotes the region for job growth and said it is acting on recommendations of a mayoral task force for helping the city recover from the pandemic.

“Many jobs lost due to the pandemic may not return, while many emerging ecosystems are creating new jobs of the future. As a result, existing workers and those new to the workforce need to acquire marketable skills and related support,” said Michael Fassnacht, president and CEO of World Business Chicago.

These groups are members of the collective: Cara Chicago, Chicago Urban League, Heartland Alliance, Instituto del Progreso Latino, Jane Addams Resource Corp., LISC Chicago, Metropolitan Family Services, North Lawndale Employment Network, Phalanx Family Services, Safer Foundation, SER Central States, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Thrive Chicago, UCAN, West Side Forward and YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.

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