Chicago’s Workforce First Fund gives a boost to the Chicago Workforce Ecosystem


The citywide initiative creates capacity-building grants to foster workforce ecosystem collaboration and build the capacity of emerging employment services agencies to better help vulnerable populations find and stay in livable wage jobs.


Chicago, IL. August, 2021- RiseKit, the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, Verizon, and Howard Brown Health Center announced the Workforce First Fund launch to support equitable economic recovery in the Chicagoland area. 


Chicago’s Workforce First Fund was created to address vulnerable Chicagoans’ need for access to good jobs to move forward in an equitable recovery to Chicago’s economy. According to a recent report, co-authored by the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, only 41 percent of the region’s 4.2 million workers hold “good jobs” (defined as paying a living wage, providing a stable or growing base of employment, and is automation resistant). It continues by illuminating the Chicagoland racial inequities, stating; White workers with only a high school diploma earn on average the same wages as Black workers with an associate’s degree. Eliminating these inequalities in income could boost the Chicagoland economy by $136 billion a year.* 


“The Funder Alliance is proud to co-invest with Verizon and Howard Brown Health Center, and join the City of Chicago’s Department of Family Support Services in providing access to innovative solutions, RiseKit and Cara Plus' Workforce Development Solutions Labs, to strengthen the inter-connectivity and collaboration of workforce development agencies serving Chicago residents and neighborhoods,” said Matt Bruce, Executive Director at Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance. 

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Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Chicagoans are searching for good jobs while dealing with considerable barriers to employment, such as housing instability, limited access to affordable childcare, and inconsistent access to reliable transportation. Many Chicagoans rely upon local employment services agencies to help them navigate a complex and stressful pathway to gainful employment. 


Often led by Leaders of Color - these agencies struggle to effectively meet the growing need in their community due to limited access to funding, technology, and best practice training to strengthen and scale their programs. 


To support these leaders, the fund provides direct grants to underwrite the cost of leveraging  RiseKit’s technology and training provided by local leaders, including Cara Plus' Workforce Development Solution Labs, in building the capacity of program delivery teams and their leadership. 


"Cara Plus is thrilled to be partnering with RiseKit and engaging Chicago-based leaders and practitioners at our upcoming Workforce Development Solutions Lab, where we share best practices and best failures from 30 years of poverty alleviation. During this October cohort, we'll dive deep into our approach to socio-emotional learning at each step of Cara's process - from the moment we engage with prospective participants, all the way through training, job placement, and coaching," said Sara Rahim, Manager of National Workforce Solutions, Cara Plus


This program has the opportunity to have a tremendous impact on the City’s ability to truly help every Chicagoan gain access to the personal support they need. Support to overcome barriers to employment, access impactful local upskilling and reskilling programs, and sustain their journey to long-term livable wage employment. 


Today, the changing structure of the economy requires access to the right kind of technology and resources to truly help vulnerable Chicagoans find and keep a good job. 


“From the start, RiseKit’s mission has been to foster a community platform where the people dedicated to helping (nonprofit agencies and employers) connect to the people and communities that need them most,” said RiseKit CEO Matt Strauss. “When we had the chance to work with such impactful partners to do our part to help the Chicago community equitably recover from last year, we knew it was a perfect fit.” Together we can create the change we want to see in the system from the bottom up.  RiseKit and I are incredibly grateful for this opportunity!”


For more information about RiseKit’s community platform and the benefits to your nonprofit agency, please visit

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About RiseKit:

RiseKit stands for a world where a person’s barriers, zip codes, and history do not define the careers they can create and the life they’re destined to live! RiseKit does this by bringing the entire workforce system to the individual to make it easier for them to find and stay on the right career pathway by providing them access to basic and career resources, a support network, and job opportunities – all-in-one place.