Workforce Development

Our programs empower our participants to achieve their highest level by honing their job skills and propelling them toward economic self-sufficiency.

Illinois’ youth are experiencing joblessness at a rate of nearly 70 percent—almost 16 times the statewide average. Cook County is home to the largest share of this demographic with 21,500 16- to 24-year-olds without high-school diplomas who are both out of school and out of work.

This issue disproportionately impacts people of color. 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor showed Illinois’ African American residents had an unemployment rate of 12.7 percent, more than double the state’s overall rate.

We know the need is great. We seek to increase and empower the number of people progressing towards economic self-sufficiency by enhancing staffing and through program expansion. Your support will help build our capacity to more extensively carve out pathways to careers that meet labor market demand and family sustainable wages.

UCAN’s Workforce Development programs empower our participants to achieve their highest level by honing their job skills and propelling them toward economic self-sufficiency. Our work is driven by the desire to inspire, motivate and educate. We respect the life experiences our participants bring to the table and recognize how those experiences might positively or negatively impact future employment goals.

UCAN does this by:

  • Developing workforce readiness skills,
  • Building positive social supports and employment connections, and
  • Engaging our participants in opportunities through various summer and year-round employment programs.

This work is an extension of UCAN’s core commitment to supporting those in need – and the need is real.

UCAN Career Coaches develop Individual Service Strategies to help place participants in permanent and transitional employment. Coaches remain involved post-placement to offer continued support, training, and when needed, connections to other services.

These employment retention services not only help participants maintain their jobs, but also increase opportunities for growth and promotion.


At the start of the program, participants undergo a comprehensive evaluation to assess their competencies, including:

  • Personal and Financial Well-Being
  • Emotional and Physical Health
  • Career Decision Making and Planning
  • Job-Seeking Knowledge
  • Training and Occupational Education
  • Job Retention and Career Advancement

These results inform a series of personalized trainings designed to improve participants’ skills around job readiness and financial literacy. When appropriate, we also offer one-on-one tutoring to address other identified needs.


Our participants:

  • Maintain 90-day job retention rates of 84%
  • Secure permanent work assignments 85% of the time
  • Earn wages averaging $12-$25 per hour
  • Meet industry demands by entering a pipeline of skilled employees

UCAN is an economic engine for the West Side and beyond. Collectively, our youth earned $391,298 in wages over a 6-week period during UCAN’s summer youth employment program.