North American Lighting is a partner of Rend Lake College for the Apprenticeship Illinois program. North American Lighting’s vision is to dramatically improve roadway safety by developing innovative lighting technologies that enhance driver vision and response time. They are a team that continuously works to bring vision to light. North American Lighting believes that people are their greatest asset and wants to continually improve as a company. One of the ways they have shown this is to invest in apprenticeships.
North American Lighting sees the value of on-the-job training combined with a specialized learning program designed to fit their needs as a business and prepare students for successful careers with their company. North American Lighting supports students by allowing them to earn a wage while they are learning on-the-job training and helps students with classroom costs, like tuition, so when students graduate with a degree or certificate from the apprenticeship program, they graduate debt free. When students complete the apprenticeship program, they have a job that they are familiar with and prepared for waiting for them, and their wage increases as they progress throughout the program, meeting more competencies and skills, and upon completion. Though apprenticeships are open to all types of students (high school graduates, veterans, career changers, unemployed, current employees looking to upskill within the company), this can be especially beneficial for non-traditional students. An example is an apprentice of North American Lighting with Rend Lake College, Chad Morris, who highlights some of the benefits for him: “That’s why I put off college for so long. I just wanted to make money, not spend money. Having a company that’s able to put their confidence and resources behind you, it gives you an extra boost of confidence.”
North American Lighting believes in investing in its students, because they believe that showing students they are willing to invest in them helps students want to invest their work into the company, creating a great partnering relationship. North American Lighting uses the apprenticeship program to grow their workforce, replacing retiring members of their staff, and training or retraining new or existing employees. As a result of the apprenticeship, they have seen more committed workers who are fully trained and plan to spend the length of their careers with that company. North American Lighting sees the merit in hands-on learning and wants to support workers with as much training as needed, and a program designed specifically to fit those instruction needs.
Chad Morris continues, “A lot of times when you’re in high school, and you’re thinking about college, you’re thinking more about inside of a textbook, you’re thinking about having to study all the time.” With an apprenticeship, classes are paired with on-the-job training, and students that are kinesthetic, or hands-on learners, really excel. Rend Lake College Instructor Chris Sink says of the apprenticeship program, “I like being able to hand-off a skill set that I know is valuable to the industry, something employers are actually looking for.” Apprenticeships also offer flexibility. Programs are designed around what the business and students need. Programs can be time-based, competency-based, or a hybrid program. Morris adds of North American Lighting, “They’re able to adapt to your life. It’s not adapting to what they want you to do. They help adapt to your schedule.”
North American Lighting has seen success within its Industrial Electronics program. But they don’t want to stop there! In addition to continuing the Industrial Electronics program, North American Lighting is now expanding their program to include apprenticeships in the field of Production Technology. The value of apprenticeships has really made North American Lighting an avid supporter of apprenticeships and is a business partner that plans to remain committed to apprenticeships for years to come.
Spend a few minutes on the Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley website and we guarantee you’ll be inspired. Read about Julian, born three months premature and diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and discover how he made friends and gained independence. Meet smiling Hazel who struggled to walk, because of Angelman Syndrome, but went on to gain mobility and attend kindergarten.These are just two examples amongst thousands: life-altering changes made possible by Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, the local affiliate of the longest running organization of its kind.
For more than 75 years, Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, headquartered in Villa Park with clinics in Naperville, and Elgin, has delivered critical support enabling people with developmental delays and disabilities to live their best lives. The affiliate, founded by volunteers in 1942, provides pediatric medical rehabilitation to more than 1,000 people each week, mostly infants and children. The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to bring Easterseals’ remarkable history to a screeching halt. When Governor Pritzker announced the “stay at home order,” three centers shut down and the organization transitioned 65 percent of its clients to tele-therapy; however, not all services adapted to the new medium.
workNet DuPage entered the picture, becoming a lifeline. Executive Director Lisa Schvach applied for layoff aversion funding through the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity enabling Easterseals and more than 20 other DuPage small businesses and nonprofits to make necessary modifications and prevent layoffs. Easterseals utilized the grant dollars to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and technological services. The support allowed the organization to continue its legacy and serve clients like Julian and Hazel. The necessary PPE proved critical to safely reopen in mid-May. “As an organization serving a vulnerable population, we need to be extremely conscientious. Without the appropriate masks, shields, and gowns, our staff would not have been able to come back. Literally, we would not have been able to open without it,” says CEO & President Theresa Forthofer. Baby boomers might remember receiving Easter “seals” in the mail, while Gen Xers and millennials may recall all-day infomercials. People might not realize, however, the Easterseals’ network across the country functions independently without financial support from the national umbrella. Each affiliate pays national dues and operates as an independent 501c3 with its own board, fundraising responsibilities, and business operations. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, affiliates were on their own.To operate the three centers, Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley employ a staff of 130 people including 70 plus therapists specializing in pediatric rehabilitation. “By opening up as early as we did and because now we offer both in-person and teletherapy sessions, we’re grateful we could avoid layoffs,” says CEO & President Theresa Forthofer. Over the course of the grant process, workNet DuPage and Easterseals developed a mutual admiration. “It is always an honor to help an organization access programs that strengthen their workforce and avoid downsizing, but I am extra grateful for the opportunity to assist Easterseals,” says workNet DuPage Business Services Specialist Jessica Barkwill. “These individuals provide services that have a transformative impact on children, families, and our community, and the need for those services does not stop in the face of a pandemic. Easterseals is determined to ensure their clients and employees remain safe and healthy, and workNet DuPage is determined to support them however we can.” "You guys are awesome to work with. Working with workNet DuPage feels like a collaboration. It’s been really a wonderful experience” said Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley CEO & President Theresa Forthofer. When families go to Easterseals, whether through virtual or physical doors, the organization nurtures dreams, “the dream to walk, talk and live as independently as possible.” workNet DuPage feels proud to support critical organizations like Easterseals and help make those dreams a reality.
Four jobs and $125,000.00 estimated annual wages were saved during COVID. The funds paid for equipment which allowed remote counseling sessions and training between the advocates and clients that could not happen in person. The funds also paid for daily sanitizing of all spaces. By providing the daily cleaning the agency was able to welcome staff and certain clients into the building to provide most services uninterrupted, although in modified forms at time. During the pandemic, the agency has served over 523 victims of domestic violence and fielded more than 700 crisis hotline calls and remained open 24/7 along with our secure emergency shelter.
Three jobs and $125,000.00 estimated annual wages were saved during COVID. With the funds received from this grant award, our SCVN team members were able to easily transition to 100% remote work during the shelter-in-place order. Our equipment was upgraded and allowed access to meeting portals, functionality of audio/microphones and no disruptions in video client and or meeting participation. Our employees have jobs today because they have the ability to work remotely.
Two jobs and $42,000.00 estimated annual wages were saved during COVID. We were able to keep full and part time staff with the supplemental funds from this grant. With the additional cleaning required at our building during the COVID-19 situation, we had many extra hours that were un-budgeted, so this was a huge help!
Three jobs and $78,000.00 estimated annual wages were saved during COVID. The Senior Center had to close our facility and satellite sites due to the pandemic and that meant staff (primarily counselors) did not have office space from which to service seniors (the population most devastated by the Coronavirus). The grant allowed us to set up home based offices for the counselors which means they can continue to serve seniors virtually or telephonically. That preserved both the service to the seniors and the counselor positions.
Eight full time jobs, 6 part time jobs, and over $250,000.00 estimated annual wages were saved during COVID. The use of these funds allowed our staff to continue to work remotely and provide services to veterans in need during a very intense and difficult time. We did not need to lay off anyone due to inability to complete work functions for tasks, which we truly appreciate. The staff became accustomed to more remote-work options while still serving clients in a safe manner. That has been invaluable as the pandemic restrictions have continued and will continue for some time.
Fifteen jobs and over $400,000.00 estimated annual wages were saved. The Emergency (1E) Assistance Grant has been a critical tool for Phoenix Woodworking and the continuation of our production. We received equipment and software to allow our employees to stay employed remotely. Personal construction and company meetings were held in Zoom instead of in-person meetings. Sanitation services were used to protect employees. The grant also allowed for training of an employee to take over a position as adjustments had to be made for other employees that had to work from home. With the assistance of the grant, all employees have remained employed at their full wages.
Thirty-five jobs and $1,056,938 estimated annual wages were saved during COVID. Due to your generous grant, we were able to continue employing all the staff in both the McHenry and Crystal Lake office. We purchased equipment that allowed staff to work at home during the pandemic. Plexiglas shields were installed at the front desk in Crystal Lake to give added protection from any germs transmitted by talking and sneezing. We have also scheduled two months-worth of deep cleaning at each of the two offices that lasts up to 30 days with cleaning agents recommended by the CDC. This allows staff to continue working during the pandemic in a safe environment when they are in the office.
Four jobs and $150,000.00 estimated annual wages were saved during COVID. This grant enabled Habitat to set up technology to allow shelter-in-place work during a 3-month shutdown of the Habitat offices, thereby avoiding layoffs of personnel. Additionally, as the office has begun resuming more normal operations, the assets purchased have allowed Habitat to start a work-from-home rotation of several office staff. This has also increased the confidence that Habitat is minimizing opportunities for transmission/infection from COVID.
In late 2015, Jessica left a retail position she had held for several years in order to seek out better opportunities for herself and her two boys. She wanted a marketable career that would provide enhanced earning potential but lacked the formal skills, education, and certifications needed for professional employment. In August of 2016, Jessica connected with the WIOA program and received a career consultation that evaluated her skills, interests, work preferences, and salary needs. Through those assessments, Jessica decided that a brighter future for her meant pursuing a degree as a Radiologic Technician. However, she needed additional funds to offset the cost of training needed to achieve her goals.
Her journey to self-sufficiency wasn’t always an easy one. Jessica missed passing her Radiography program final by just 1%. Even though that was a setback that could have deterred her from obtaining her degree, Jessica leaned into the assistance offered by the WIOA program to help pay for her classes, supplies, and transportation costs, as well as encouragement from her professors to keep going. She did not quit on her dream for a better life for her and her boys. Finally, in May of 2020, after four years of hard work and dedication, her persistence paid off. She graduated with her degree in Radiography and on June 1st passed her boards. She emailed to let us know her good news saying, “I am now a Radiology Technician! I thank you so much for all you and the WIOA program have done for me. Now to just find a job!”
Just a few short months later, Jessica found a job at a hospital working as a radiologic technician. She persevered, and with the help of the WIOA program, achieved that bright future for her family.
I first learned about the Free Illinois IT training courses through the unemployment office. I started the coursework in July. After three weeks, I acquired my Palos Alto Networks Cybersecurity Gateway II Certificate through Coursera’s partnership with the state of Illinois. Since acquiring my certificate, my social media profile has gotten more views and I am continuing to make professional connections as I seek employment.
Erika came to the program as a result of a referral from her sister, who was in the WIOA program and had explained how WIOA can help. At the time, Erika was in the process of getting her GED, and so her career planner worked with her towards this goal. However, Erika realized that the timing was not there and she was unsure of her direction. When she came in a second time she had her heart set on going into the CNA program. Even though she was pregnant and her case managers were concerned for her ability to attend the strenuous training, without hesitation, Erika was ready and willing to do everything she needed to do to get it done. On top of being pregnant, she also did not have stable living; she was constantly going back and forth between her parent’s houses.
As time went on it started to become difficult for her to be able to work and be part of the program as her pregnancy started to progress, but Erika was determined as she could not afford to lose her job. At times she could not even afford to eat lunch, so WIOA helped her by buying her a lunch card. Even her car was not the best but still managed to use it and at times WIOA was able to help her make sure her car was able to get from point A to point B. Eventually Erika ended up leaving her job due to being 8 months pregnant and it was starting to take a toll on her both physically and financially. She started to get worried as it was time for her to get baby needs and the father of the baby had no income coming in either. WIOA was able to help her on getting baby needs and it put her mind at ease. All while still going to class and going to her clinical and doing great in them. Erika realized that this what she wanted to do, she loved helping people. Erika was able to pass the state exam and took some time to be with her new baby born in December.
As of now she has landed herself a job as a CNA and was able to move out into her own place with her and the baby. She is now thinking of pursuing Pre-Med with the support that she has received from her family. It is amazing to see how this student went from not knowing what she wanted to do with unstable income, to now supporting herself and her baby’s life, living on her own, and pursuing to go further in her education
Mario Scimeca has a disability that presents challenges for him to learn and retain information. Mario cannot drive and relies on his parents and public transportation. Mario struggles with communicating his needs at times and becomes easily overwhelmed and sometimes reacts using inappropriate coping techniques. Despite these barriers, Mario was able to accomplish his employment goal through his participation in the Project SEARCH program administered in partnership with Parents Alliance Employment Project (PAEP) at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital and funded through the LWIA 5’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Mario entered the program in September 2019 with minimal job experience, stocking at Walgreens for 6 hours a week. The Project SEARCH program offered Mario the opportunity to participate in an intensive, year-long program where he was placed into three (3), 10 week long internships at the hospital to build his stamina, manage his coping mechanisms, and gain valuable transferable work skills. Mario completed his first internship in the Dock department, where he learned to unload shipments off of trucks, organize shipments onto corresponding carts, and deliver shipments to their designated locations around the hospital. For his second internship rotation, Mario was able to showcase his skills as he worked in the hospital kitchen. The hospital staff took notice of his hard work and determination and recommended Mario for the open Porter position at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, which he was hired for.
PAEP staff Hailey Mankivsky and Taylor Selesky worked diligently with Mario throughout the program to assist him with addressing and overcoming his barriers with practice, repetition, advocacy, and encouragement along the way. As a result, Mario grew tremendously over the 9 months that he was involved in the Project SEARCH program. Mario learned to increase his stamina, to be open to constructive criticism, and to use healthier coping mechanisms when experiencing turbulence on the job. His experience and participation in the Project SEARCH program shaped and molded Mario into the hard working and determined worker that he is today. When Mario reflects on what the program entailed, he states quite simply, “I’m so happy Project SEARCH staff helped me find a job.”
In spite of obstacles set before him, Mario has been able to thrive and step up to challenges he has faced within his 22 years of life. His success would not have been possible without the Project SEARCH program, through WIOA, providing funding for Mario to receive the necessary staff support for training, as well as transportation expenses to get him to and from the hospital, with continued support of PAEP staff so that he can maintain his part time job at the hospital.
Mario graduated from the Project SEARCH program in May 2020. As a result, he can be found in the cafeteria at Delnor Hospital, happily stocking the beverage cooler, rolling silverware, running food carts to patient floors, and ensuring that high touch areas in the cafeteria are thoroughly sanitized. Nowadays, Mario actively listens to instructions from his managers and seeks support from Project SEARCH staff when necessary. Every chance he can get, he states how incredibly thankful he is to have met the Project SEARCH staff and for their assistance to becoming the hard worker that he is today.
Frank Gallegos enrolled in the Kendall Youth Employment Program through the Grundy/Kendall Regional Office of Education in May 2019 to get help finding a job. At the time, Frank was a student at Pathway’s Transition School. Frank had limited volunteer experience so he worked with Case Managers to help complete a resume and practice for interviews. Also, Frank did not have his own transportation, so he relied on the Kendall Area Transit and Ride DuPage to transport him to his appointments. His Case Managers assisted with scheduling his transportation.
Frank worked very hard on preparing for a job. He attended all his appointments that were scheduled with his Case Managers and completed and practiced all assignments that were given to him. Frank had reservations about working a job that included customer service. The one area that Frank needed to improve on was getting more comfortable with his social skills. He was very hesitant on accepting the paid work experience at Meijer because of the customer service that would be required for that position.
In November 2019, Frank participated in a paid work experience at Meijer as a General Merchandising Clerk. Frank was very uncomfortable in the beginning of his paid work when he encountered customers. His job duties included stocking, conditioning shelves, and putting away customer returns. He also assisted customers with finding merchandise and answering questions. Frank is a quick learner and was able to adapt and learn his new job quickly. He was able to master the store layout and their “Bluebird” device for scanning items and finding their location in the store. He worked 2 days a week for 12 weeks, which included working Black Friday and New Year’s Eve. During the 12 weeks of Frank’s paid work, he was able to gain confidence and improve on his social skills. Once his paid work experience had ended, Frank was offered a part time position at Meijer.
Frank is currently working at Meijer as a General Merchandising Clerk. He works close to 30 hours a week, which includes weekend nights. He just received a raise and has been working permanently at Meijer for just over three months. Frank has stepped up and showed his dedication as an employee as he has been continuously working during the COVID-19 pandemic at Meijer. His managers at Meijer had commented to Case Managers on how they have noticed that Frank has blossomed with his confidence and attitude. He now schedules his own transportation with Ride DuPage and was able to buy his first cell phone. His Case Managers are very proud of his success and how far he has come with his social skills. In May, Frank completed his schooling at the Pathways Transition Program where he presented a PowerPoint detailing his accomplishment and his future goals. Frank is currently saving for a car so he will not have to rely on public transportation to get him to and from work.
Kathy entered this apprenticeship opportunity as the result of a partnership of between SIFH Healthcare, Lewis and Clark Community College, St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department, Madison County Employment and Training and Economic Development Region 9 partners.
"My goals for the apprentice program are to be able to use the clinical skills that I have learned and be an exceptional Medical Assistant."
"I am hoping that through the apprenticeship program I am able to use the skills that I learned to help patients receive the professional and compassionate care that they deserve. I am hoping for career advancement as well as a better salary for myself and my family."
"Everyone in this program has become one big family. We help and support each other. Our weekly motto was “We can do this!”
"I am very grateful to have gone through this program. Not only will I advance my salary, I will also advance my career and the patient care that I can give. This has been a wonderful experience for me."
Kathy successfully completed the Certified Medical Assistant Apprenticeship in January.
Sierra heard about the Livingston Workforce Services from a friend. She was pursuing the Radiography field and looking for scholarship opportunities since she only worked part time on the weekends as a waitress. She had just been accepted into the program at the local college, but she was also interested in getting her foot in the door with some internship opportunities in the radiography field. Sierra was then placed in a “work experience” in the radiology department at OSF. She worked there six months and used her experience to help her progress through the program. She graduated with her Radiography degree and soon passed her certification exam. She now works in the radiology department at the hospital closest to her home.
John was a high school student when he was referred to the Livingston Workforce Services. He was looking to obtain a job working at his high school’s cafeteria, so that he could gain some valuable life skills. The remarks from his supervisor on his evaluation regarding his progress on the program was substantial; mostly exceeds expectations. After the completion of his work experience, his school hired him on as a cafeteria assistant where he continues to work while attending high school. He is expected to graduate in 2022 after turning 21 years of age and hopes to continue his employment beyond.