The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership – A Showcase for Collaboration

By: Emily Engel and Jason Keller

Outreach into the communities that Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) serve have stressed the continued need for coordinated workforce development efforts in the Seventh District. To gain a broader perspective on these issues as well as other conditions impacting low- and moderate-income (LMI) populations and communities surrounding the city of Chicago, CDPS recently visited the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (the partnership). 

Introduced in July 2012, the partnership is a result of a coordinated effort between Cook County and the city of Chicago to broaden the reach of workforce development services for employers and job seekers by reducing costs, improving services, and engaging the business community. “As a human resource pipeline, The Partnership works with businesses, community colleges, workforce centers and delegate agencies to maximize human capital for high-demand industries including Healthcare; Hospitality; Information Technology; Manufacturing; Retail; Transportation, Distribution and Logistics; Business and Professional Services, and other important sectors of the area economy.”[1]

The partnership focuses on four different groups:  job-seekers; youth; employers; and the community. Each group’s needs are met through a myriad of tools including career counseling, basic skills assessments, and targeted rapid response workshops.  Throughout Cook County, there are ten workforce centers and two satellite centers, as can be seen on the map below[2].  The services offered at each center are free of charge.

Cook Workforce 1

Its services are available to all residents and businesses within Cook County, including Chicago and over 130 municipalities.  The partnership has recently focused on numerous policy changes that better align occupational training services with current and projected business needs. Through its Business Relations and Economic Development Team, the partnership has amplified private sector awareness of the region’s workforce resources and has led to deeper business engagement.  An example of an expanding initiative is the new On-The-Job Training program where businesses are not only reimbursed for up to 90% of new employee wages and the costs of training, but the training is designed to match qualified applicants with actual job openings.

On a quarterly basis, the partnership produces reports such as “Where are the Jobs?”  These reports pull information from Internet job boards to analyze where the jobs are and who is hiring in Cook County.  The top job postings by occupation and by top employers can be seen below from the partnership’s 2013 Report: 4th Quarter. [3]  This data helps public and private officials, economists, academics, and others to better understand hiring needs across the region.

Cook Workforce 2

After a recent meeting with the partnership’s CEO, Karin Norington-Reaves, CDPS learned that in its first year of operation the partnership worked with nearly 50 delegate agencies in administering $50 million of grant money while providing services to approximately 140,000 people.

Other banks within the Federal Reserve System are also working on workforce development issues around the country.  The Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Kansas City are sponsoring a national conference “Transforming the U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century.”


[1] Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Overview & Resources, available at:

[2] Locations on map can be seen in the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Overview & Resources, available at:

[3] Where are the Jobs in Cook County?; Quarter 4, 2013, A summary of local job postings by occupation, employer, and skills needed, available at:

This entry was posted in Industrial Cities Initiative, Skills Mismatch and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.