Cook County job training chief: $60 million budget not enough to meet need

When Karin Norington-Reaves was asked to take over Cook County’s beleaguered jobs training agency more than five years ago, her exact words, as she recalls, were: “Hell, no.”

What was then the President’s Office of Employment Training had been subject to several federal investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions for embezzlement and fraud. Once Norington-Reaves talked herself into leaving her state job to restructure the agency, which she renamed Cook County Works, she discovered more misconduct that would lead to the conviction of a former interim director.

The scandals have since calmed, but the region’s serious employment challenges remain.

As CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, a merger of the city and county workforce systems completed in 2012 to streamline services, Norington-Reaves has now focused her attention on making the agency’s $60 million budget go a long way.