Participants of ComEd Construct Program
Jun 20, 2024

All In on a Reclaimed Legacy of Economic Equity Work 

Since our founding in 1858, the YMCA of Metro Chicago has worked to connect our friends, neighbors, and community members with jobs and career-exploration opportunities. 

The Y’s participation in a pilot program in 2023 and our continued efforts into 2024 (more on that in a moment!) represent our renewed commitment to this 165+ year-old priority. 

The ComEd CONSTRUCT Youth Academy is a unique program designed to foster interest in a range of clean energy jobs that will be important for the future. Twenty high school students of color from the Chicago area spent several weeks in the summer of 2023 discovering career possibilities within the energy industry. 

Building on ComEd’s longstanding CONSTRUCT Infrastructure Academy for adults, ComEd and the Y launched the CONSTRUCT Youth Academy to get area youth interested at younger ages about job opportunities that are fast approaching due to a clean energy transition in Illinois. A recent study estimates that as many as 150,000 new clean energy jobs will be created in the state by 2050!  

During the program, students received instruction and demonstrations from ComEd and YMCA leaders on a variety of relevant areas, including drone operation, power grid maintenance, work to support the growth of solar development, EVs, and more. At the completion of the program, students received a stipend of $350 – an added benefit designed to break down some of the financial barriers that could prevent some from participating. 

“Through the first-ever CONSTRUCT Youth Academy program, our students have been able to plant seeds that will help them grow lifelong opportunities and strong roots for the future,” said Dorri McWhorter, President and CEO of the YMCA. “Professionals in the energy, utility, construction, and facilities-management sectors will only continue to be in greater and greater demand in Illinois, and having this experience under their belts will position them for success, no matter which career path they choose after high school.” 

In 2024, the Y will be expanding the Youth CONSTRUCT program to train up to 70 students, and we’re spearheading even more workforce opportunity through the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program. In partnership with the State of Illinois, the Y has established four pre-apprenticeship cohorts for 2024 that include classroom training in core construction curriculum, hands-on learning at construction sites, and a stipend for successful completion of the program, as well as a range of supports to help participants transition into apprenticeship programs. These programs are part of the YMCA's Economic Equity Institute, which will focus on workforce development, financial investment and education, and home ownership. Learn more via our Youth CONSTRUCT program webpage