CHICAGO – As Illinois’ unemployment rate fell to its lowest point since October 2008, Governor Pat Quinn today announced Employ Illinois, an expansion of his efforts to provide diverse residents with training for jobs in the construction industry. Offered through the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway, Employ Illinois links job seekers with training and also increases the incentive paid to contractors from $10 to $15 an hour for each program graduate they put to work. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and help drive Illinois’ economy forward.
“Putting people back to work is my number one priority,” Governor Quinn said. “There are more people working now than when I took office and today’s good news shows we are headed in the right direction. While we have more work to do, Employ Illinois will help give more of our hardworking residents the opportunity for hands-on training and job experience at a decent wage. Illinois is making a comeback and this program will help ensure our workers have what it takes to get the job done.”
Preliminary data, released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security, shows Illinois’ rate has dropped to 7.1 percent, the lowest since October 2008 – months before Governor Quinn took office. The drop in the unemployment rate from March to June is the sharpest three-month decline ever recorded in Illinois.
Governor Quinn has directed IDOT and the Tollway to apply the Employ Illinois incentive on as many eligible projects as possible. Employ Illinois workers will take part in many of the projects funded by a new $1 billion road construction initiative that begins in August.
Under Employ Illinois, participants will develop the pre-apprenticeship skills they need to work on construction sites and begin the process of becoming journeymen and journeywomen in the construction trades. Since the $10 per hour hiring incentive took effect, trainees have participated in 269 contracts statewide, resulting in 9,172 hours in on-the-job training that was reimbursed by the state.
“The Tollway’s Move Illinois Program is the largest in our agency’s history and the largest of any toll road agency in the nation,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. “Employ Illinois will bridge the gap between these established training programs and the job opportunities that exist on a variety of roadway construction projects throughout Illinois.”
“Employ Illinois is about investing in people as we invest in our roads and bridges,” Acting IDOT Secretary Erica Borggren said. “Through this program, we will provide aspiring workers the help they need to develop marketable skills in the transportation trades.”
The $15 per hour incentive will be paid by the state to contractors that hire Employ Illinois graduates. On IDOT projects, the agency funds the incentive paid to contractors. The Illinois Tollway will fund the incentives paid to contractors that hire Employ Illinois graduates on Tollway projects.
Ongoing projects already utilizing the new $15 per hour incentive include the Circle Interchange in Chicago, Roosevelt Road in Broadview, West Lake Avenue in Glenview, the Grand Avenue bridge in Gurnee, the U.S. 34 and Canadian National Railway separation project in Aurora and the Richton Road and I-57/Stuenkel Road projects in Will County.
Employ Illinois workers will participate in many of the major northeastern Illinois construction projects this season, part of the $1.1 billion capital bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly this spring, including:
- $48 million reconstruction of the I-55 bridges approaching Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.
- $86 million project to rebuild and repair the bridges at I-55 and Illinois 171 in the southwest suburbs.
- $44.5 million project to add lanes to U.S. 14 in Crystal Lake.
- $32.7 million reconstruction of the I-55 and Weber Road interchange in Romeoville.
- $16.1 million reconstruction of the U.S. 41 and Illinois 132 interchange in Gurnee.
Other projects statewide that could include Employ Illinois workers are:
- $22.4 million resurfacing and bridge repairs to I-64 in Washington County.
- $21 million resurfacing of I-57 in Williamson County.
- $13.6 million resurfacing and bridge replacement on I-57 in Iroquois County.
- $8.6 million resurfacing and safety improvements on I-74 in Champaign County.
- $30 million resurfacing on I-70 in Fayette and Effingham counties.
- $26 million resurfacing of 31 miles of I-39/U.S. 51 in Winnebago and Ogle counties.
At Governor Quinn’s direction, construction projects have exceeded goals for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) participation. Over the past five years, the Tollway has spent nearly $586 million, or 25 percent of its $2.4 billion contracts awarded, with firms owned by minorities or women. Minority workers on Tollway projects have seen their hours quadruple between 2011 and 2013.
The Illinois Jobs Now!-funded $425 million rehabilitation of the Dan Ryan Branch of the Red Line project included 29 percent DBE participation for the track work component and 40 percent for the station work, with more than $56.4 million in construction work awarded to African-American contractors. The $695 million Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge project in the Metro East featured 24 percent minority workforce participation on the Illinois-funded part of the project, nearly 10 percent higher than the goal set by the Federal Highway Administration and a record for construction projects in the Metro East area.
During the past five years, the state's road-building agencies under Governor Quinn have spent more than $4.2 billion with DBE firms, of which nearly $280 million went to African-American owned firms. This is the largest five-year total in the state’s history. IDOT has seen DBE participation jump from $186 million, or 11.8 percent of all IDOT project spending in 2008, to $353 million and 16 percent in 2013.
Offerings through Employ Illinois include IDOT’s Highway Construction Careers Training program (HCCTP), Tollway’s Transportation Construction Apprenticeship Readiness Training program (TCART) and the Earned Credit Program (ECP), also through the Tollway. For more information about Employ Illinois, visit www.illinois.gov/employ.