America's Promise Grant: Building a Talent Pipeline in the Calumet Region

Posted by IMEC on Oct 2, 2019 12:02:42 PM

Originally written by Calumet Area Industrial Commission.


In January of 2017, Calumet Area Industrial Commission (CAIC) accepted the call to action from IMEC and the Illinois Department of Labor to administer America's Promise Grant (APG) to underemployed and low-income individuals, plus recent high school grads. Since then, APG has helped further CAIC’s mission in leading industrial expansion and retention in Chicagoland and Northwestern Indiana.

Through the grant's funding, CAIC has empowered clients to pursue career pathways in advanced manufacturing. Specifically, APG funding has afforded CAIC’s clients the opportunity to take community college classes free from financial responsibility. Participants receive tuition funding in areas of study including computer-aided design & drafting, electrical automated systems, industrial maintenance technology, process control & instrumentation technology, and more.

Outreach Strategy

Leveraging these key outreach tactics help achieve APG enrollment goals.

  1. Generating Awareness: Engage the power of CAIC’s network, word-of-mouth, client testimonials, and social media.
  2. Client Acquisition: Collaborate with partnering community colleges to facilitate America’s Promise Grant application process, including the utilization of digital platforms such as, Skype, a video chat platform that enables face-to-face virtual interviews.
  3. Onboarding + Case Management: Audit application materials, confirm the applicant’s community college course schedules, disburse award letters, and schedule quarterly client follow-ups.

Case Study: Pay-it-Forward with America’s Promise Grant Featuring Skype

Meet Marvin Herrera, an APG recipient currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in advanced manufacturing and engineering. He is also a welding instructor at Richard J. Daley Community College located in Chicago, IL. Herrera’s entry-level welding course is conveniently held on weekends for students who, otherwise, are unable to attend class during the week due to work and family obligations.

Herrera learned about APG from Julie MacCarthy, Ed.D Director of Career Planning and Placement at Daley College, where MacCarthy has been instrumental in the referral process for APG.  As a gratified APG recipient, Herrera naturally recommends it to students interested in fields in manufacturing. He contacted Edil Sandoval, a Career Planner at CAIC, to find out how his students could begin the grant application process— in an efficient and timely manner as the beginning of the semester approached.

Enters MacCarthy’s recommendation for Skype. As more DCC students shared their struggle to get to CAIC offices for enrollment, MacCarthy suggested Skype as an enrollment tool. Skype is an online software that enables face-to-face digital interaction via webcam, without the need for a physical meeting. After review and approval of this unconventional enrollment method, it was put into practice. Skype granted Sandoval the capability to:

  • Explain the grant’s eligibility requirements.
  • Conduct group & individual interviews with the students.
  • Review the grant’s follow-through process including quarterly communication for case management, good academic and behavioral standing.

By way of Marvin Herrera’s act of “paying-it-forward”, MacCarthy’s dedication to student success, support from innovative communication systems, and a collaborative spirit shared by CAIC and Daley College, 6 students were successfully registered as recipients of America’s Promise Grant.

What did we learn from this case?

APG’s accessibility through CAIC is extensive, from Will County, Cook County, and Lake County in Indiana. Site-visits are not always possible. Dynamic tools like Skype make it more seamless to reach prime targets and provide a great channel for assisting with the enrollment process. This story was a successful example of delivering APG to qualifying individuals with the collaborative efforts of CAIC staff, along with Daley College resources and staff. The goal is always to make way for growth opportunities in manufacturing careers, where barriers and skills gaps exist.

Late in 2016, IMEC, among 23 other regional workforce partnerships nationally, was a recipient of the America's Promise grant funding. The grant is designed to build a strong pipeline of skilled workers in specific sectors. With the help of the funding, individuals in the Chicago Metropolitan area, specifically the Calumet region, can acquire the necessary skills to secure employment in the manufacturing industry.

For more information on the America's Promise Grant, contact IMEC at or call 888-806-4632.


Written by IMEC

Topics: industrial skills, partnership, economic development, Workforce Development, America's Promise Grant

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