The Chatham Education and Workforce Center

The History of the Center

Chatham has long been an iconic African American community in Chicago, where professionals, middle- and working-class families live and work. It boasts strong local institutions, a stable housing market and vibrant commercial centers that value and support local entrepreneurship.

When Dr. Betty Howard, the beloved head of the special education department at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, was killed by random gunfire in Chatham in May 2014, Congressman Bobby Rush (D, IL-1) led an effort to revitalize local communities gripped by violence. The Chatham Education and Workforce Center (Center) is one of many initiatives to evolve from that work. The Center is located just blocks from the site where Dr. Howard lost her life.

The 11,000-square-foot Center was conceptualized by The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership), which operates the public workforce system in the City of Chicago and Cook County, and its CEO Karin M. Norington-Reaves. It truly lives up to its name as a place for education and occupational advancement.

The design/build services for the project were provided by GMA Construction Group and Onyx Architectural Services Inc.

The Future of the Center

The first floor is home to office, classroom/group meeting spaces and a state-of-the art manufacturing classroom/Maker Lab where instruction will be provided by the Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC), and Richard J. Daley College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Courses offered in the Lab will include blueprint reading, introduction to electrical circuitry, Computer Aided Design (CAD) and metrology (the science of measurement) – an important aspect of advanced manufacturing.

The second floor boasts a career center, computer lab/resource room and a large, sun-soaked multi-purpose room with capacity for more than 100 people for hiring events or community gatherings. The room can be subdivided into two or three classrooms as well.

The Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI), will call the Center home. Launched in June 2016, GCI, a non-profit organization, performs the role of a local anchor institution—by coordinating, planning and fundraising for key synergistic community initiatives. It drives and links comprehensive neighborhood and economic growth.

The Partnership has collaborated with more than 2,000 employers and placed more than 70,000 people in jobs since its inception. The Partnership plans to collaborate with local high schools to facilitate student exposure to and exploration of the region’s high-demand careers in sectors including manufacturing, information technology, the skilled trades and more.

  • For general information about the Chatham Education and Workforce Center
    Ray Bentley, rbentley@chicookworks.org
    (773) 493-4632
  • For information about the Career Center
    Director of Midwest Workforce Operations Ron Hearns, rhearns@kra.com
    (773) 493-4624
  • For WIOA Program Orientation
    Business Service Consultant Kelly Butler, kbutler@kra.comGroup of business professionals sitting with resume
Photograph of Dr.Howard in her doctorate graduation gown.

Career Services at the Center

All services provided at the Center are offered free of charge. The Center will schedule weekend hours to facilitate community use and access.

  • Skilled Trades training (Construction Works Powered by the Illinois Tollway)
  • Digital Literacy training
  • Manufacturing training
  • Chicago Housing Authority resident training program
  • Classroom/group meeting spaces

Through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) federal funding from the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, the Career Center offers services for job seekers and businesses including:

  • Resume preparation
  • Skills assessment
  • Occupational training
  • Candidate screening and referrals
  • Job placement

The Chatham Education and Workforce Center offers services to special populations such as individuals with disabilities, older workers, ex-offenders, people experiencing homelessness, and veterans. The Partnership selected KRA Corporation, a nationally-known African-American owned workforce development organization, to provide high caliber career services to the greater Chatham communities.

The Public-Private Partnership

The Center is an example of successful public-private collaboration. The building that houses the Center at 640 East 79th Street was initially purchased by IFF, a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant and developer, that helps communities thrive by creating opportunities for low-income residents and people with disabilities. IFF leveraged funds from JPMorgan Chase’s $40 million three-year investment in Chicago’s South and West Sides. 4S Bay Partners (4S Bay) purchased the building outright from IFF, contributing more than $3 million to date towards the purchase, build out, and furnishings for the Center.

While the 4S Bay investment was critical to the Center’s existence, other private sector contributions enabled the provision of essential services. Blue Cross Blue Shield donated $50,000 for the multipurpose room’s state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment; Com Ed donated $45,000 and all of the computer equipment in the Resource Room/Computer Lab; and Verizon and Fifth-Third Bank each contributed $10,000 in support of virtual programming made necessary due to the pandemic.

 

Thanks for The Partnership

Thank you to everyone who worked hard to bring the Center to life. Your efforts truly bring a new jewel to the south side and the neighborhood of Chatham. Special thank you to The Partnership Staff members:

Current and Former Partnership Staff

IFF Team

Baso Ltd.

4SBay Partners, LLC

Sponsors/Donors

Terry Anderson

Vickie Battle

Claudette Soto

Allison Casselberry

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Ray Bentley

Eden Hurd-Smith

Jim Casselberry

ComEd

Susan Bisno Massel

James Ratner

Emily Green

Fifth-Third

Dunni Cosey Gay

Rich Wallach

Jessica Sarowitz

Verizon

Tommy Gee

Pedro Gonzalez

Tamika Jackson

Stephanie McCorkle

Cory Muldoon

Jesus Ramirez

Illona Sheffey-Rawlings

Jan Terry

Michael Walton