September 20, 2018 News

For Immediate Release:
Media Contact: Dunni T. Cosey Gay
(312) 833-8973 or

Chicago – Union Pacific Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Lance Fritz today awarded the first part of a multi-year, $300,000 Community Ties Giving Program regional grant supporting the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership). The $100,000 contribution presented to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership Chief Executive Officer Karin Norington-Reaves is in support of the county’s Opportunity Works program. The initiative, created at the request of President Preckwinkle, addresses the employment challenges and skills gap that young adults face in the county’s most underserved areas.

“Job-driven partnerships between these critical stakeholders are crucial to close the skills gap young adults in underserved areas face,” President Preckwinkle said. “I am proud Union Pacific is joining us on our journey to take concrete steps towards making a difference in the lives of this particular population of young adults.”

Opportunity Works started as a pilot program in June 2017. It continues to grow, partnering job seekers and local businesses through The Partnership’s network of workforce development agencies.

More than 500 young adults have participated in Opportunity Works through paid internships. Approximately 85 percent of participants transitioned to a workforce program, post-secondary training/education or unsubsidized employment at the end of their internship.

“Union Pacific’s success is linked to communities where we operate, and we proudly support organizations, such as the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership,” said Lance Fritz, Union Pacific chairman, president, and chief executive officer. “Improving the quality of life in those communities and building a robust workforce for the careers of tomorrow is critical to fulfilling our vision of Building America.”

Union Pacific is playing an active role in supporting Opportunity works by hosting interns, providing tours and exposure to careers in the rail sector.  Most recently, Union Pacific hosted its third Opportunity Works career exploration day at the railroad’s Proviso Yard. Through Union Pacific’s involvement, more than 100 Opportunity Works participants toured the facility to learn about career opportunities in the transportation, distribution and logistics industry.

“Employer collaboration is vital to the success of this program, and Union Pacific has been an avid supporter and partner from the start,” said Karin M. Norington-Reaves, CEO of The Partnership.  “We appreciate the generous contribution from Union Pacific and believe it will help provide remove barriers to youth employment and economic empowerment.”

More than 33,000 young adults in suburban Cook County are disconnected from either work or school. At the same time, many employers report a shortage of skilled workers.

Through Opportunity Works, young adults will access:

  • Paid internships
  • Exposure to viable career options
  • Hands-on training that supports employment in growing industries

Opportunity Works helps employers build their talent pipeline at no cost by connecting them to young adults seeking a career. Employers can get involved by hosting interns and Career Exploration Days.

Implemented through a network of community partners including Business and Career Services; Prairie State College; Proviso Leyden Council for Community Action; SGA Youth and Family Services; and Serco Group plc. (SERCO); Opportunity Works targets the southern and western suburbs of suburban Cook County with sector-specific training in Manufacturing, Information Technology and Transportation, Distribution and Logistics.

To learn more or apply: