Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced an initiative to place workers in 1,000 manufacturing jobs over the next year.


The mayor’s office, World Business Chicago, Chicago Federation of Labor and numerous business leaders announced last week that 1,000 Jobs for Chicagoland Manufacturing, an initiative in the Mayor’s 2015 Budget, will match a minimum of 1,000 qualified job seekers to open manufacturing jobs, and also link residents who need additional skills to training and apprenticeship programs that may result in full-time employment.


Manufacturing is the second-largest sector in the Chicago region, employing more than 400,000 people, the Mayor's office explains. Currently, 14,000 small and mid-size manufacturers operate in Chicago, and more than 100 have located or expanded in the city since the mayor took office in 2011. With average wages on average 27 percent higher than other industries in the region, manufacturing produces strong, middle-class jobs for Chicago residents. Furthermore, jobs in the Chicago region can provide workers with full-benefits and median wages of more than $70,000 during their career.


“This program to connect 1,000 workers to manufacturing jobs builds on the work that we have done to reestablish Chicago as one of the country’s major manufacturing hubs,” Mayor Emanuel says. “From working to bring the Digital Manufacturing Lab to Chicago to investing in College to Career manufacturing training programs at Richard J. Daley Community College, attracting new manufacturers to Chicago and training and supporting future manufacturing talent, we are helping to ensure Chicago’s economy will continue to grow well into the future.”


Interestingly, the 1,000 Jobs for Chicagoland Manufacturing initiative will focus on three areas of need. The first is to raise awareness of manufacturing jobs in Chicago and the region. The second area is to increase capacity at existing workforce organizations to help them to match job seekers to jobs and training programs that meet the needs of area manufacturing businesses. Finally, the initiative will also work to facilitate coordination through a 1,000 Jobs for Chicagoland Manufacturing-branded web portal that will connect job seekers with training and employment opportunities.


“These manufacturing jobs are available today, and manufacturers are engaging and ready to hire,” says Jeff Malehorn, president of World Business Chicago. “This program has the ability to grow our economy by $400 million and demonstrate to the world that Chicago is the world leader in the new era of manufacturing. That’s why World Business Chicago has partnered with local manufacturers and the workforce development system to promote the sector and strengthen the pool of potential employees.”


The initiative will be supported in part by $200,000 in the Mayor’s 2015 Budget, along with more than $750,000 in funds and in-kind contributions raised by the WBC Advisory Council for Chicagoland Manufacturing—a group of 36 manufacturing industry leaders from across Chicagoland and chaired by the Mayor’s office—and in partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Grant Thornton, Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, Chicago Urban League, and more than 50 other partners.


The initiative strikes a chord with Chicago manufacturers. David W. Seeger, president of Atlas Tube, says the company offers competitive wages and fulfilling work, yet it encounters a shortage of interested, qualified applicants for open positions.


“We’re excited to partner with World Business Chicago to promote the manufacturing industry, grow our local applicant pool, and, ultimately, grow our local economy,” Seeger says.


The aspect of 1,000 Jobs for Chicagoland Manufacturing that I am most interested in is the capability to connect interested workers with training and apprenticeship programs. It doesn’t seem the problem manufacturers struggle with is a lack of workers, it is a lack of skills. I will be interested to follow the initiative and see the results it produces.


What are your thoughts on manufacturing and skilled workers? Is 1,000 Jobs for Chicagoland Manufacturing a sound initiative? Would other metropolitan areas benefit from similar initiatives?