Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), each State Governor must submit a Unified or Combined State Plan (Title I) to the US Department of Labor outlining a four-year strategy for the State’s publicly-funded workforce development system. The system comprises a national network of agencies and organizations providing employment, education, training, and support services to help job-seekers obtain good jobs while helping businesses secure the skilled workforce they need to compete in the global economy.
WIOA reforms planning requirements under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) to foster better alignment of Federal investments in job training, integrate service delivery across programs, ensure the workforce system is job-driven and matches employers with skilled individuals. Successful implementation of WIOA's approaches requires robust relationships across programs.
The six core programs authorized under WIOA are: the Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth programs (all under Title I), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act program (under Title II), the Wagner-Peyser Act Employment Service program (authorized under the Wagner-Peyser Act, as amended by Title III), and the Vocational Rehabilitation program (authorized under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by Title IV).
Illinois aims to create a statewide workforce development system that meets the needs of individuals and businesses, ensuring a skilled workforce for global economic competitiveness. Key guiding principles include a sector strategy framework, strong partnerships with businesses, career pathways, cross-agency collaboration, integrated service delivery, equitable access, and clear metrics for progress and success. To revitalize economic growth and create opportunity, Illinois must prioritize data-informed, demand-driven strategies that address the skills gap, support job creation statewide, generate acceptable returns on investment, and provide support for low-income populations. Achieving system-level change requires cooperation among all state agencies involved in education, job creation, and workforce development.
Goals for Achieving Illinois’ Strategic Vision:
- Implement regional cluster strategies to focus resources on high-potential industries and bring together public and private sectors to build on regional strengths.
- Develop core academic, technical, and essential employability skills for Illinois workers throughout their lifetimes to prepare them for high-demand careers.
- Assist Illinois businesses in finding productive workers through more efficient training and better services for job seekers and employers.State Strategies to Achieve These Goals:
- Coordinate demand-driven strategic planning at the state and regional levels.
- Support employer-driven regional sector initiatives.
- Provide economic advancement for all populations through career pathways.
- Expand service integration.
- Promote improved data-driven decision making.
- Advance public-private data infrastructure.
- Increase barrier reduction services.
To align with other planning efforts in Illinois for economic and workforce development, industries in the Economic Development Plan were defined broadly, including various sub-sectors. For instance, the Transportation and Logistics industry includes warehousing, wholesale trade and distribution, and import-export activities. The DCEO's Five-Year Economic Development Plan focuses on six categories of businesses based on the state's economic development priorities: Agribusiness and Agricultural Technology, Energy, Information Technology, Life Sciences and Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Transportation and Logistics, each with specialized supply chains across different regions.
The North Central region's leading sectors are agriculture, utilities, and financial activities, while the emerging sector is self-employed workers, construction, wholesale trade, transport/warehouse, and professional/business services. The maturing sectors include manufacturing, educational services, and health care/social assistance, with agricultural production being highly concentrated in the region, along with utilities and financial activities. Manufacturing and Educational Services remain significant employers, but both sectors are projected to experience declines in employment over the projection period. The financial activities sector is expected to create the most jobs in the area..
The Northern Stateline region's leading sectors are agriculture, utilities, transportation/warehouse, and health care/social, while the emerging sector is self-employed workers, retail trade, educational services, leisure/hospitality, and government. The maturing sectors include manufacturing and other services. This region has the highest concentration of manufacturing compared to any other region, along with a significant concentration of employment in utilities and agriculture. The health care and social assistance industry, as a leading sector, is expected to create the most jobs in this region over the next decade.
Illinois Building an Aligned Career Pathways System
Illinois has adopted a career pathways approach in the last decade to help residents progressively build towards college and career success through education, training, and employment opportunities. The Governor's Action Agenda for EO 3 also aims to prepare workers for high-demand careers by developing their core skills throughout their lives. Both the public and private sectors are working on education, workforce development, and economic development initiatives, with a focus on career pathways. The plan outlines the development of a college and career pathway system under the "Partner Engagement with other Education and Training Providers" section. These strategic efforts are intended to equip Illinois residents with the necessary skills and credentials to meet the demands of businesses.
Illinois defines career pathways as a combination of education, training, and services that align across multiple education and training systems, with partnerships between these systems and businesses, agencies, and community stakeholders serving as the foundation for sustainable pathways. The career pathways feature entry and exit points, allowing individuals to progress along an education and training continuum and advance in employment within a specific sector. Administration of career pathways involves various private, state, and local entities, and state committees have conducted definitional work to ensure alignment across agencies and initiatives.
Integrated Career and Academic Placement System (ICAPS)
The Integrated Career and Academic Placement System (ICAPS) is a model developed through a partnership between Title II Adult Education and Literacy and Postsecondary Perkins CTE. It offers an integrated pathway of career and technical education or non-credit workforce training, with stackable and industry-recognized credentials for Adult Education and Literacy students. The model includes comprehensive student support services, team teaching, and an integrated instructional approach to enable students to complete their high school equivalency while concurrently taking CTE or non-credit training courses. The model provides career pathway opportunities for students to transition into postsecondary education or employment.
Essential Employability Skills Framework
Illinois' Title II Adult Education and Literacy workgroup, in collaboration with private-sector employers, developed the "Essential Employability Skills Framework" to address the lack of non-technical skills in new and existing employees. The framework includes four core elements: personal ethics, work ethic, teamwork, and communication, and a self-assessment tool that has been incorporated into the State’s Perkins Plan. The self-assessment measures classroom and work-based learning activities aligned with the framework's definition of essential employability skills. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity funded a project with the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce to promote student awareness of essential skills by bringing young professionals into schools as mentors for business-based team challenges.
In Illinois, African-Americans historically experience unemployment rates at least twice as high as those for whites. Although there was an exception in 2020, African-American unemployment remained at 170 percent of the white unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for Hispanics has typically been at least one percentage point higher than that for whites since data by race and ethnicity began to be reported in 1981. The difference in Hispanic-white unemployment rates decreased steadily during 2017-2019 but then significantly widened in 2020. Since unemployment rates for both races started being reported in 1981, Hispanics have had lower unemployment rates than African-Americans each year. Figure 5 provides a visual representation of this information.
In Illinois, within the same racial or ethnic group, there are variations in unemployment rates by gender. In 2020, white women had a higher unemployment rate (9.3 percent) than white men (8.5 percent), while African-American women had a lower unemployment rate (12.4 percent) than African-American men (16.8 percent). The unemployment rate for Hispanic women (12.7 percent) was higher than that for Hispanic men (11.5 percent). African-American men have historically reported the highest unemployment rate among all racial and gender groups in Illinois, with the exception of two years (1984 and 1998) when African-American women had higher rates.
Based on the most recent US Census data through 2019, African Americans experience the highest unemployment rate, followed in descending order by multiracial, American Indian or Alaska Native, Hispanic, Other Race, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, White, Non-Hispanic, and Asian.
The IWIB is expanding throughout the state to guarantee comprehensive stakeholder participation and efficient implementation strategies. This involves formulating and executing certification and service integration policies, as well as revising the eligible training provider list (ETPL) service integration policy.
The IWIB Strategic Plan outlines the responsibilities of the Governor-appointed board in evaluating and meeting the workforce needs of Illinois' employers and workers. WIOA requires state workforce boards to lead the workforce system through policies, strategies, and performance that address the needs of businesses, consumers, employees, community members, and partners. The board is responsible for developing, implementing, and modifying the Unified State Plan, convening relevant programs, partners, and stakeholders, and providing oversight and strategic leadership for the state's workforce development system. Additionally, the board is tasked with convening employers and community partners at the state, regional, and local levels to promote economic growth and ensure alignment between education and workforce services. Active participation and close collaboration with partners, including public and private organizations, are crucial for success.
New State-Funded Job Training for Economic Development Workforce Program
The SFY2022 Budget of Illinois has earmarked over $110 million to improve essential workforce development services and resources. The budget will be funded using American Rescue Plan dollars from the State Coronavirus Urgent Remediation Emergency (CURE) Fund. Of the total funding, $50 million will be allocated to The Job Training and Economic Development (JTED) Grant Program, which will offer workforce training, a barrier reduction fund, and subsidized employment. Additionally, $60 million in grants will be provided to community providers and local governments for youth employment programs. WIOA partners are collaborating to streamline and harmonize their initiatives for maximum impact.
Sector Partnership Projects
The goal is to establish new or expand existing sector-based partnerships at the local and regional levels, enhancing the workforce investment system's capacity to provide critical training that aligns with business and industry needs. Activities involve creating regional plans and sector strategies that utilize resources to address the skill and other requirements of high-demand industries. These plans and strategies support participants by identifying new or growing employment opportunities in the region and ensuring that workforce investment system partnerships and regional assets are aligned with industry, community colleges, labor unions, nonprofits, and other stakeholders. Additionally, they can respond to economic shocks such as plant closings, natural disasters, and long-term unemployment within the regional workforce.