Metro West Manufacturing Workforce Collaboration

Developing Manufacturing Career Paths

The Metro West Manufacturing Workforce Collaboration is an initiative established to develop manufacturing career paths for unemployed and underemployed people. Over the next ten years, DuPage County manufacturers will need to replace 9,000 retiring employees. The need for this initiative is both urgent and important.

This workforce initiative was created with support of DuPage County, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing (AIM), North Business & Industrial Council (NORBIC), Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC) and Career Connect DuPage.

About the Program

Candidates will be placed using the success of JARC’s training and expanding it to the Tech Center of DuPage. The Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing is the connection to employers (jobs) and federal workforce training dollars for On-the-Job (OJT) training. In coordination with Worknet DuPage and JARC, candidates eligible for federal workforce funding will be identified and trained. AIM serves as the business intermediary and leverages existing partnerships and relationships, recognized expertise in the sectoral approach to job training and workforce development, knowledge of the workforce system, knowledge of advanced manufacturing and metal fabricating, and established collaboration with manufacturing employers and the community. A new focus of this initiative is the creation of Career Connect DuPage which will serve as the local screening organization for underemployed and unemployed adults. This will be done by working through a network of churches and community organizations to identify candidates to refer them for aptitude/screening to enter into a manufacturing career.

As part of this initiative, there is an Industry Advisory Board made up of local manufacturers and the Collaborative to serve as industry experts communicating current and future workforce challenges and needs.

Recruitment & Assessment

Career Connect will dedicate a full-time recruitment specialist to work with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), Illinois WorkNet of DuPage, other community based organizations and the community at-large. The specialist will be responsible for educating people on the opportunities in manufacturing and driving people to weekly orientations that will include an overview of the programs, manufacturing career paths, application process and testing. The long term plan for Career Connect is to assist those candidates that do not enter the manufacturing career track to find other positions.

For the pilot program, JARC will replicate its proven recruitment, testing and screening process. Once individuals have attended an orientation, JARC’s program coordinator will be responsible for screening individuals for suitability and eligibility for JARC’s training programs. JARC’s job training programs target skills gaps in the metal fabricating and manufacturing sectors, such as CNC and welding, and serve a variety of populations. Prospective applicants who fall below the requisite numeracy and literacy levels required to be successful in the programs may be referred for remedial education through adult basic education and bridge programs, such as JARC’s Manufacturing Bridge or the College of DuPage. There will be two distinct advanced training programs for individuals to choose from:

  • CNC Fast Track — A 20-week, 500 hour job training program for unemployed adults. Trainees learn how to program, set up and operate Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine tools. Graduates may attain up to three industry credentials through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS): NIMS Measurement, Materials and Safety (MMS), NIMS CNC Milling Level 1, and NIMS CNC Turning Level 1. Graduates also complete two OSHA approved safety training courses: OSHA 10 HR (General Industry) and OSHA Forklift Operator (3 Year License).
  • Welding Fast Track — A 14-week, 350 hour program for unemployed adults. Trainees learn the fundamentals of Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW or “MIG”) processes that are used in manufacturing. Graduates are qualified to a standard of the American Welding Society: AWS GMAW Structural 3/8 Plate, 2F Position. Graduates also complete two OSHA approved safety training courses: OSHA 10 HR (General Industry) and OSHA Forklift Operator (3 Year License).

These programs are project based, simulate a real-world workplace environment, and operate on an open entry/open exit format. This is a departure from traditional lock-step formats used by the community colleges and other training providers in which there is a defined start and end date. The open entry/open exit model allows individuals to enter the program at any time and graduate once they have secured full-time training-related employment. It also gives employers a continuous flow of qualified candidates to meet their hiring needs and allows the Collaborative to train individuals year round.

JARC’s Center for Working Families provides bundled financial support services, including public benefits screening, financial counseling and employment coaching. JARC prepares trainees for the workplace in two ways:

  1. Through a simulation of the work environment as described above and,
  2. Through work readiness training during the training program, and follow-up retention coaching after placement.

Job Placement

Once individuals have obtained their credentials, the AlM will leverage its network of employers and organizations like the TMA to place the trainees into jobs with manufacturing companies. AIM will meet with each company that is interested in hiring the trainees from the Metro West Manufacturing Workforce Collaborative and run them through the Alliance Business Assessment Program. This program will determine the financial stability of the company and whether or not they are able to support entry level workers. Feedback from employers on the quality of candidates will be shared with the Collaborative. AIM has collected and continues to identify open positions and will work to fill these through candidates identified through the program.


The program plans to recruit 250 individuals to determine eligibility. From that, 50 people will be enrolled in the program. 25 of the candidates will be placed into jobs following training and 20 will be placed using On-the-Job-Training (OJT) wage reimbursement training. Candidates will continually be recruited for both training and direct placement throughout the course of the year-long grant.

For more information including how to apply for training, click here or email