Blog Subscribe

Skills for Chicagoland's Future Awarded $750,000 from Charles Koch Foundation

Skills’ National Expansion Campaign to Launch 25 sites in 10 years Aims to Change Traditional Workforce Model & Remove Barriers to Employment

CHICAGO – Skills for Chicagoland’s Future (Skills) today announced a $750,000 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to fund Skills’ plans to expand across the country and bring its unique workforce model to disinvested communities where unemployment remains high.  

“We are incredibly grateful to the Charles Koch Foundation for its commitment to our national expansion plans,” said Skills’ founding president and CEO Marie Trzupek Lynch. “The Charles Koch Foundation shares our vision of transforming the way we approach unemployment by engaging employers to connect people across the country to the power of a quality job and career.” 

Skills launched its national expansion initiative last year to expand to 25 new sites across the country over the next decade and place 500,000 people into jobs. The efforts come at a time when unemployment, though at record lows nationally, remains persistently high in communities that have experienced historic disinvestment and lack of opportunity.  

Founded and developed in 2012, Skills is a leading nonprofit that has flipped the traditional workforce model to address unemployment and underemployment. Skills’ “jobs-first” approach starts by going directly to employers to understand their hiring needs, company culture and long-term goals. Skills then connects those employers to unemployed individuals who Skills has helped coach, prepare and advocate for to find employment. To date, the Skills model has placed nearly 20,000 people into jobs through Skills for Chicagoland’s Future and its affiliate site, Skills for Rhode Island’s Future. 

The funding commitment from the Charles Koch Foundation will provide Skills with the needed capital for national expansion operations and supports seed funding grants in areas that are interested in adapting the Skills model. The Foundation joins numerous other donors that have contributed almost $4 million so far to Skills for America’s Future, including the Walmart Foundation, Aviv Foundation, Stand Together Foundation, Community Focus Fund of the Chicago Community Trust, and numerous individual private funders. Last year, Skills announced its national expansion campaign to raise $10M to fund its work. 

Key to Skills’ national success will be increasing its partnerships with the top Fortune 500 companies in the country, which last year had 680,000 jobs available that require less than a bachelor’s degree. Lynch said by reaching more of these employers and assisting them with hiring unemployed talent for these jobs, the impact on economic mobility and recovery for people across the country would be unparalleled.  

“We share Skills’ mission to help unlock human potential by connecting employers with the people who possess the skills and aptitudes needed for in-demand jobs,” said Ryan Stowers, executive director of the Charles Koch Foundation. “We are pleased to help fund Skills’ ambitious national campaign, which will break down barriers to employment in communities across the country.” 

Annually, the U.S. spends $41 billion on workforce development, yet marginalized populations and often Black and Brown communities, experience unemployment rates well above national averages. The prevailing “train and pray” model, funded by public government dollars, fails to effectively remedy this disconnect between job seekers and employers, focusing on training job seekers but without a link to available jobs post-training and with no improvement on earnings. 

Companies or cities interested in learning more about the expansion campaign can visit 

Recent Posts

Learn more about Skills