New Workforce Goals Prioritize Residents from South and West Side Communities
CHICAGO -- On the heels of a successful completion of the federal review process for the Obama Presidential Center (OPC), today the Obama Foundation announced details of a new workforce initiative. The OPC Construction Workforce Initiative will create an inclusive construction workforce trained with skills to build the OPC, and create a diverse pipeline of talent that can be funneled to construction projects across the city.
“We need to work toward a day where the people building Chicago look like the people who live in Chicago,” said Michael Strautmanis, Chief Engagement Officer of the Obama Foundation. “We’re trying to create something lasting with this initiative—something that goes beyond building the OPC to include the development of a program that will place local community members on construction jobs across the city well into the future.”
The OPC Construction Workforce Initiative includes three pillars:
Setting the Bar: Workforce Goals
The Foundation has committed to awarding 50 percent of the subcontracting packages to diverse vendors, exceeding the City’s goal of 26 percent and 6 percent commitment to minority and women owned businesses (MBE/WBE) vendors, based on the belief that the team that’s building the Center should look like the community it calls home. Residency requirements, typically focused on Chicago as a whole, will be adjusted to reach the most underserved areas of the city for workforce opportunities. It is estimated the Center will generate up to 5,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs during and after construction.
“Part of what we are trying to do is model a new way for other developers,” explained Lori Healey, Obama Presidential Center Implementation Lead. “We hope this impacts more than what we’re doing at the OPC but also sets the bar higher for other projects in the city.”
Breaking Down Barriers
After examining the most significant barriers that exist to accessing construction jobs for subcontractors and potential trades applicants, the Obama Foundation is taking steps to make it easier for workforce participants and diverse subcontractors to participate with:
Engaging the Community
The announcement of the OPC Construction Workforce Initiative kicks off what will be a months-long effort to host virtual job trainings across the South and West sides in partnership with Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT), HIRE360, IBEW-NECA Technical Institute, Revolution Workshop, and St. Paul’s Community Development Ministries. This effort targets those who have previously been left out of the industry - including young people, returning citizens, and women. The goal is to recruit new tradespeople, address their barriers to entry, work with labor unions to assign them to apprenticeships, and place them on projects across the city.
“Some of these support programs existed before, but we applaud the Obama Foundation for bringing us all together to create a unified approach to developing a more inclusive construction workforce,” said Sharon Latson, Program Director at CWIT. “This is the right approach for the right moment, and is going to model how to overcome the barriers that have existed for far too many in our community for far too long.”
Interested applicants can go to https://www.obama.org/presidential-center/opportunities/construction to start the workforce application process and learn more about upcoming orientation meetings.
Earlier in the process, the Obama Foundation announced the selection of Lakeside Alliance as the general contractor for the project to ensure South Side, Black-owned construction firms profited directly from the project and were part of the decision-making team. Lakeside is tasked with ensuring 50 percent of the subcontracts on the project go to diverse vendors. They have already held more than 150 one-on-one meetings with diverse subcontractors. Interested subcontractors can go to https://www.lakesidealliance.com/opportunities Opens in a new tab to request a meeting with Lakeside Alliance and learn about upcoming contracting opportunities.
Contact: Courtney D. Williams, Obama Foundation, [email protected]