SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The state is funneling $15 million into the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program.

That program is designed to increase diversity and access to apprenticeship programs in the construction industry and building trades.

In a news release, State leaders said the $15 million will increase training opportunities, grow the talent pipeline and boost diversity in those employment sectors.

The program originally launched in 2021. During the first year of the program, 22 organizations received funding. 1,000 people participated. The state said 70% of those participants were Black, 16% were Hispanic and 22% were women.

“It is important for people of color, women, and others who are underrepresented, to have better access to good paying jobs and other economic opportunities,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “Our state’s economic empowerment strategy is focused on broadening that access and the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship program does just that. It’s exciting to see such amazing results in the first group, and I look forward to more of the same when the geographic reach of the program expands.”

Participants of the program are able to attend free of charge, and receive a stipend.

After finishing the program, pre-apprentices receive certificates which qualify them to continue to a registered apprenticeship program in one of the trades.

The state is hosting informational webinars for people who want to learn more about participating in the program. The schedule for those webinars and links to register can be found online.