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How to apply for a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) grant

October 30, 2009

NOTE: For the quickest instructions on how to apply for WIA funds in Chicago, scroll to the bottom of this entry.

As soon as I announced that I was downsized, my friend Jim stepped forward and gave me a list of pointers as I enter the job market and become acquainted with being unemployed.  The three key points he proferred were

  • Apply for unemployment
  • Network as much as you can
  • Request WIA (Workforce Investment Act) funds to pay for a technical certification or business training, since it took him over a month to be approved

I had applied for unemployment the day after I was let go and networking was more of an on-going activity, so I zeroed in on the WIA request.  With a bit of research, I learned that the federal Workforce Investment Act provided grants for unemployed people to take job skills classes.  More specifically, eligible Chicago residents could receive $6000 toward training.  For me, this could mean an advanced Microsoft technical certification or the coursework required for the PMP certification.  Based on my career path, either one of these would be attractive and make me more competitive as a prospective employee.  I decided that this would be valuable and sought the application form for this grant.

Well, an hour later, I emailed Jim to say that I had no luck finding the WIA application.  Apparently, this was a bit different in the city of Chicago than in the northern suburbs.  I discovered that there was an office called the Northside Workforce Center that held orientation for the unemployed at 9am on weekdays.  Figuring that I could find the form I needed in this office, I decided to go in yesterday morning.  I thought this would be a quick in-out procedure – I was wrong.

I arrived at the office a few minutes before 9am and there was a line of a dozen people snaking down the sidewalk.  I stepped to the back and asked the fellow in front of me if this was for unemployment; he nodded.  He turned out to be fairly friendly on that cold October morning.  While we waited to enter, we talked a bit about the job market and training programs.  Shortly after 9am, the workers opened the door and welcomed us, advising us to maintain two lines – one for the unemployed seeking the orientation class and one for those seeking support from the Department of Human Services (housed in the same office).  It seemed clear at this point that I couldn’t simply ask for a form, so I proceeded into orientation, sort of.  Once we checked in by signing two sheets, we were directed to a waiting area behind the lobby.  We sat here for another ten minutes while we waited for 9:15 – the actual starting time of the orientation.  I took this time to observe everyone else.  There was a fairly even distribution of race, gender and socioeconomic level, so it seems that everyone is feeling the effects of the recession.  Most folks were dressed fairly casually, although attire did run the spectrum from hoodie/sweats up to slacks/button-down shirt/tie.  I was impressed with the fellow in the tie, but unsure as to why he went to that length for the occasion.

We were given a brief overview of the services in the office – computers, internet, fax, phone for job search.  I was impressed that this was a one-stop shop for those not able to afford these services in their home.  It certainly sets more of an equal footing in the overall job search arena.  After this overview, we were brought into the main room for orientation.  This turned out to be a 45-minute session describing the services at the office in more detail, including the WIA application process.  The key takeaway from this portion of the event was that WIA grants were not entitlement funds and were only provided to certain individuals who met the qualifications.  After completing the application form (if we had a college degree) or after passing a baseline education assessment (if no college degree), we would be assigned a case worker and a review appointment.  We then spent several minutes completing the application form itself, a 4-page document that sought everything from general contact information to work history and even selective service status (more on this later).  Following this, those of us with college degrees were ushered into a different room to await our appointments.

While we waited, I chatted with a fellow who was one of the 700 laid off by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and was hoping to find new opportunities after using WIA to gain additional skills.  During our conversation, we skimmed the checklist of documents we were expected to bring to the review.  I was amazed to find that you needed a more thorough set of documents for the WIA process than to get a passport.  In addition to a passport or other proof of citizenship/work eligibility, I will need to bring my driver’s license, social security card, recent paystubs or unemployment stubs, and my proof of selective service application.  Yes, folks, they need to know that I did not try to dodge the draft, whichever one may have taken place during the 80s, 90s or 00s.  Thankfully, it turns out that you can print off such a form from the federal selective service site.

After waiting roughly 30 minutes in the latest holding area, we were granted our review appointment.  I took a look at my sheet and thought there was a mistake – it said 12/16/09!  Everyone else in our group of ten had appointments that same week.  Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there was a bit of a backlog in the office.  We tried to figure out what it would mean if we got work between the time we applied and the time we started a training class – the best we could come up with was that the hired status would prove that we didn’t need the additional job skill after all.  I see it as a hedge, somewhat of an insurance policy.  Perhaps they base your appointment on the date that you became unemployed.  That seems like it would be a reasonable approach.

Needless to say, I have plenty of time to prepare for my appointment.  In the mean time, I wanted to put a resource out that explains what the process is for Chicago residents to apply for WIA funds:

  1. Identify the closest Chicago workforce center
  2. Plan to attend an orientation session – bring a book or magazine, but get there even 5-10 minutes earlier than they have posted on the website.  From my experience, it appeared that they had a limited number of seats for the orientation session each day.
  3. Complete the paperwork at the orientation.  It may be helpful to bring a copy of your resume to reference start/end dates for work history.
  4. If no college degree, plan to spend 2-3 additional hours taking the TABE assessment or schedule it at an alternate time.  If you have a college degree, expect to receive the appointment for your review session, understanding that it may be 1.5-2 months in the future.

At this point, that is all I know.  Once I make it to my review, I will add more details about my experience.

109 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2010 6:38 pm

    Great series of posts Jacob. I was thinking of using this when I was first laid-off last year then I found work just to be laid off again. I will follow through as I want to obtain my PMP. Can you tell us what training provider you decided to use?

    • April 27, 2010 7:49 pm

      Keith, thank you for the positive feedback. I am glad to hear that these posts provided you some value.

      I ultimately went with eConsulting Group, based at 401 N. Michigan. They offered a PMP/Business Analysis/Agile course series. As I write this, I’m on break from the final week of the PMP certification portion. I just submitted my PMP application to take the exam, so I’m pretty pumped. What I liked about the eConsulting Group approach was that they were flexible enough to arrange night classes, as I had just started contract work when I was approved for the training.

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had a couple of ups and downs – though it can be difficult, continue to stay positive! Let me know how your process turns out.

  2. August 11, 2010 9:37 am


    This is very good; I’m eager to read about this, but did you not have to go on a job search?
    This is the first post of your that I’ve read but I wanted to go ahead and comment then I’m going to read through your experience because my son is today going to his WIA orientation but not at the workforce center; he started there months ago meeting with someone but not at part of a group orientation. She sent him to the Adult Learning Center (at a different location) to take his TABE test (at a different time). He then started on the process of bringing in all his different documentation that she then sent to yet another place where the case workers are. In the meantime, however, she sent him on to a particular training provider to apply, take their placement test and apply for any financial aid (WIA said applying was a requirement whether you would qualify or not; it was a screening tool to make sure you didn’t already owe anything from previously). She then sent him on a job search.

    • August 17, 2010 8:14 pm

      Donna, it sounds like your son is on the right track. I’m no expert on WIA, so I’m not sure if the guidelines are different state by state. To be honest, I was doing the job search even as my WIA participation was being approved. I was lucky enough to find an opportunity as a contract coder for JP Morgan and then landed in my current position at Sonoma Partners while I was in the middle of my PMP certification training. I wish your son the best of luck – please encourage and support him, and let him know that patience can be invaluable when working with employment services.

  3. Donna permalink
    August 20, 2010 8:27 pm

    Of course, guess I was focused on the exact requirements. It seems a little different with you; there were at least still jobs in the field you had, whereas he got caught in the downturn with what he was doing, so there wasn’t even much job searching to do. However, having said that maybe you just have to keep your eyes open; while I was up there I kept seeing trucks around advertising doing what he was doing so I thought somebody must still be doing it, then while I was checking out something else I wound up at the Metal Mall when one of those trucks pulled up, so I talked to the guy who said yes, indeed, business was booming for them while the business my son was more involved with hasn’t done anything so go figure. Anyway I called them to find out exactly where they were (like way out in the boonies; Chicago we’re not here) and when they found out his experience and time frame they seemed quite interested; seems the jobs in his field just aren’t being advertised, too many inexperienced people out of work; they don’t want to deal with. Anyway he went but he missed the hire/fire guy but they took all his info; that was yesterday, he didn’t hear anything today, think he ought to call Monday; how’d you handle that part? he’s never actually had to deal with this before in getting the jobs he had before. Thanks

    • August 29, 2010 2:54 pm

      I’ve always found it tough to know when to follow up on a job lead – it’s always shared a level of mystery with when to call a girl back after you’ve gone on a date. I have found that as the job market continues to remain competitive, formal HR processes are falling by the wayside. Employers *are* less likely to follow up with everyone who inquires about a position, but that doesn’t mean that the individual, like your son, is not a qualified candidate. Following up and showing interest are both positive actions to show an employer that you are determined. Obviously, you don’t want to call every day, but here are a couple of basic rules that should help:

      – If the employer said that he or she would follow up by a certain date, wait 1-2 days beyond that date before following up. Sometimes things come up and they can’t respond exactly when they said.
      – If the employer did not give a specific follow-up date, call them back 4-5 business days after the last time you met or received contact from them.

      These guidelines are not hard rules, but they give a foundation that your son can work with to see if it improves his follow-up responses and second-round interviews.

  4. Renwick Miller permalink
    February 14, 2011 8:39 pm

    Thank you VERY much for this bit of recon. Bureaucracies are not my strong suit, and just having this info to get started is reassuring.

    • February 14, 2011 10:22 pm

      Renwick, I’m glad that you found this to be helpful. I also really like that you called it ‘recon’ – it makes me feel all secret agent.

      • Marcus Nance permalink
        May 26, 2011 6:06 pm

        Hello Jacob,

        I was wondering if your understanding of the WIA eligibility rules were based on individual income or household income. I first went through the process last year and was denied due to my wife’s income. I attended a job fair today and was told that eligibility was based upon my individual income. Has there been any changes recently? I’d love to get your input. Thanks!!

      • May 28, 2011 2:10 pm


        I can only speak from my own experiences with WIA. At the time, my wife was not working, so this never came up. Your best best is to speak with an employment counselor at your local Department of Employment Security (or equivalent if your state has a different name for it). They typically hold question and answer sessions and 1:1 appointments at which you could find answers to questions like you ask above.


  5. D.P. permalink
    May 29, 2011 12:12 am


    My son was going through this at the same time. The income eligibility requirements come from the fact that you (or at least he did) have to apply for the Pell Grant first to see if you qualify for that. That may not be true in every case as I didn’t get the idea that Jacob had to, maybe because they had an idea that he wouldn’t because of the job he’d had before. My son had actually been out of work for a year when he started his process so I’m sure they were pretty sure he would qualify. If your situation is something like that then is that where you were possibly denied? My son also wasn’t married so wife’s income also wasn’t an issue with him, either.

  6. Antonio permalink
    March 7, 2012 2:54 pm

    It has always been my motto “knowledge and knowing is power”. I’ve just been informed of this particular program by one of my closest friends who lives in Alabama. Now that I’m on the internet conducting some research on it, I come across this web page which I’m highly impressed with the authors detailed step by step process concerning WIA programs, eligibility and application completeness. It is this type of impression that we as people should always look to leave behind. I’m sure most of us have a great appreciation for your experience Jacob and I’m sure you knew that we would. Thank you sir for sharing, it has been and will be most helpful to me and others. I plan to share this information with my co-horts and other school mates at Robert Morris University. Appreciated.

    • March 7, 2012 3:38 pm

      Antonio, it’s always warming to get positive feedback. I’m glad to know that this was helpful for you.

      • March 7, 2012 4:22 pm

        Antonio, I’m guessing then that you don’t live in Alabama. My earlier posts didn’t apply to there but that is where I actually am and have another (yea, I know) son who’s getting ready to apply for it down here. According to the workforce center he talked to – but not the local one, because they’re not talking to anybody; seems strange to me, we’re in the lowest unemployment area in the state – and, no, this son is not unemployed – yet, (or is that why?) they’re out of money. So while he was there someone suggested he go to another center. Now, in the other state my other son was in that was very much not something for you to be able to do. But here most of the centers (maybe it’s that way there, just that the one he was going to go to was that way) here look at themselves as all working with/for the state as a whole so as long as you’re in the state they will work with you – again, except for a couple of the bigger ones, who do keep it to their area. – anway this center said the federal requirements are for you to attend orientation first thing, like Jacob had to in Chicago. That was just the opposite of the way they had my oldest son do it; that was the last thing he did, after he did everything else, that he was told to do personally by the counselor.
        Now, Jacob, how did you find out when orientation was held? Thanks

      • March 7, 2012 4:27 pm

        To be honest, Donna, I don’t entirely recall how I found out. I had a friend who was downsized before me and he was a great resource; I believe Jim was the one who told me about WIA and how to start that process.

  7. March 7, 2012 6:01 pm

    ok, Jacob, I was wondering more exactly because, like a said, somebody at the local office told him to go to this other center, or more exactly, to call, which, when he did, he was told when orientation was. But, now, mama bear being what she is, had to call just to make sure he really could go to that one, after going through what I did with the other one. Then also this son is actually, besides working, already in school. He is doing that on the Pell Grant, as well. But I’m gonna go now, on that note. Pick this up later.

  8. May 30, 2012 5:46 pm

    I found your blog post on WIA useful, especially since you re-skilled yourself and are happily employed.
    I was recently laid off as a help desk manager and would like to link with you on LinkedIn. Perhaps you’ll send me an invitation (hope so). Perhaps you’ll give some advice to someone hoping to sharpen their technical skills.

    • May 30, 2012 8:28 pm

      I’m glad you found the posts useful. I’m happy to connect on LinkedIn! I’ll send you an invitation and we can communicate further from there.

  9. May 30, 2012 11:40 pm

    Jacob, middle son all approved! back in school full-time! paid for by WIA! and getting Pell Grant as well; plans on paying up his rent with it since he won’t be able to work full-time with his school schedule (yes, been working but just a little nothing job; why he’s back in school!)

    • May 31, 2012 8:42 am

      Donna, that’s wonderful news! Congratulations and thank you for sharing that positive news with me.

    • keem permalink
      June 7, 2012 4:06 pm

      how long did you wait? i went to the orientation like april 9 and still haven’t got a call back, though i got an email about an immediate job opening but it involved heights which i am extremely weak against.

      • June 7, 2012 8:06 pm

        keem, I can’t recall the timing when I applied. I do recall taking the orientation, then a short test. After that, they didn’t have any availability for a counselor appointment for about a month after that. Donna’s son may have had a different experience; I’ve heard that it can vary a lot based on how busy the WIA office is where you apply.

  10. June 7, 2012 11:13 pm

    Keem, I have two sons who went through the WIA process; with the 1st one, strangely enough, the orientation was the last thing he did; he was sent to the WIA counselor by the employment office when he wasn’t being able to find a job (heights wasn’t a issue for him – he’d been roofing on pole barns – though maybe I wish it had been since he fell); she sent him to take the TABE test; not sure about your situation but that’s a test you have to take if you don’t have a college degree, unlike Jacob; with the 2nd son, he first went to the local WIA office, which was going to just put him on a waiting list, saying they weren’t taking anybody but someone at the office (not a worker, just someone else there) told him to go to another office, which was taking people and they pretty much got him right into an orientation and then right to an appointment, not long at all, a week, maybe? I know he started it all this past spring and he’s gotten approved and is in school now full-time this summer. Now having said that I don’t know what state you’re in but I learned through this that different states handle it differently since those two sons are two different states; the one the 1st one is in would not have allowed what the 2nd one did; there you could only go through your local WIA office; we learned that because his local office (or actually the office that actually approves you, which that is the same way both states) was possibly not going to approve his course of study as being high-demand but it got slid in before they stopped it so we were trying to see about going through a different office that would but they wouldn’t allow it, unlike the state with 2nd son. Don’t know if this helps but hope so. But, goodness, if you haven’t heard anything since April I’d be calling, my!

    • keem permalink
      June 11, 2012 2:38 pm

      thanks for the replies. yeah it went there like 2nd week of april and they told me it takes 4-6 weeks, since the 4th week i’d call at least once a week. i don’t know i’ve done all the workshops but still have not gotten any calls. i live in illinois and actually went to the chicago northside workforce center by sheridan and lawrence. i’m just a little bit sad because it is taking too long. i just want to know is when you do get the call what tips can you guys give me to get approved?

      • June 11, 2012 8:11 pm

        keem, what school are you trying to go to? that may be where the problem is

      • keem permalink
        June 13, 2012 10:05 am

        actually i still haven’t gotten the call for a career manager which is the the step after taking the orientation which is really odd because as i am writing this now it’s almost been 2 months.

  11. June 11, 2012 8:42 am

    Thanks Jacob for this information. I had on the Emergency Unemployment Plan and just went to a meeting to extend my benefits. I was told to go to the WIA office, but was never told what to bring or do! This is the most discouraging part of the whole thing. You drive miles to get to this office and told you need all this which makes a second trip before even being seated. I was also told that you these orientations are only on Mondays?? Not sure if this is true since I am starting this journey now.
    So Thank You again for your information.

    • June 11, 2012 9:38 am

      Jennifer, I’m glad that my posts were valuable to you. I’m sorry to hear that you had some frustrating experiences with the process. Best of luck that things move speedily for you from here!

  12. June 11, 2012 10:00 am

    Jennifer, my younger son went through that but hang in there! it was worth it for him in the end; he just got his money and he’s in school now full-time!

  13. June 13, 2012 11:19 pm

    keem, what workshops are you talking about? where you take your tests? and the career mgr. isn’t the heights, is it? is that a job or a person to see about one like the counselor Jacob was talking about? what went where, the application? before or after the orientation and/or workshops? what are you actually waiting for a call about? my 2nd son went to orientation, got his paperwork to fill out there – maybe took a test then/there, maybe got a call about having to go back and do that and seems like there was something regarding the test he’d already taken for school since he was actually already in school first – are you? – maybe the score he’d made on it either was affected by or affected what he had to make on theirs – then he had to get financial documentation together and either send or take back to them and his school schedule, which entailed getting his curriculum plan together and in his case seeing what classes he needed to finish up in his tech field together with which of those would be offered this semester to see if there would be enough for him to go full-time, which is required, which again in his case, there weren’t going to be but he still had to do his academics for his degree, so he picked up one of those, and all of that had to be turned in, so is any of that what you’re waiting for a call about? I would still be calling and I still think the problem could be with the school, so do you have one? just think that could be where the problem is

    • Richard permalink
      June 14, 2012 12:55 pm


      I went to 4740 N. Sheridan today to discover that they only take new WIA registrations on Monday mornings at 9:15 AM. The staffer said they only “take” the first 40 in line that day.
      Too bad the IDES office on Diversey couldn’t have told me that information.


      • June 14, 2012 1:23 pm

        Richard, thank you for sharing. This is helpful info. Did they say if this is standard across all offices, or specific to the 4740 N. Sheridan location?

      • Richard permalink
        June 14, 2012 2:18 pm


        When I visit the 4740 N. Sheridan office in Chicago next Monday I’ll ask what is the standard registration process for the other 4-5 offices in Chicago, IL.


      • Richard permalink
        July 3, 2012 8:10 am


        Four weeks ago I visited 4740 N. Sheridan (a Workforce Training Center) only to learn they take 40 people at 9:15 AM (get there at 8:30 AM).

        Three weeks ago I went to 4740 N. Sheridan at 8:15 AM (an hour early), and realized there were already 40 people standing in line. I went home.

        Two weeks ago I visited 4740 N. Sheridan at 7:45 AM taking a small chair to sit on for my 90 minute wait in line. I was the 10th person in line. Met some nice people, shared my chair with a few people, doors opened at 9:15 AM. Three hours later I left the office after filling out a form, listening to over an hour presentation. If anyone goes to a Workforce Training Center, obviously you bring identification (drivers license and perhaps social security card). But most importantly, bring a printed resume. It’s not required but the counselor (named Dallas) said they can put the resume immediately into your file folder for future reference. I asked 4740 N. Sheridan staff many questions and walked away believing that if things went well, I might get a WIA grant in 2 months.

        One week ago I attended MicroTrain on West Adams in downtown Chicago. I don’t mind saying their name because I felt their WIA seminar was well run, informative, and most of all, time well spent. After doing their seminar they assigned a staffer to you who advised you on which WIA office to visit in Chicago or suburbs. Pending your “official” visit to a WIA site (governmental or non-profit) you are to call your MicroTrain staffer and they will then work with you on helping you through the WIA process. IMPORTANT: It seems that MicroTrain has its own preferences as to which WIA office they suggest you visit. A very well run WIA event at MicroTrain.

        This week is the 4th of July so I was not able to attend my initial WIA seminar at the agency office MicroTrain recommended. Apparently you can start your WIA application at a second office and it doesn’t matter. Next week I’ll visit my “new” WIA office for their seminar.

        Sorry’s this is so long Jacob. In summary, I’m 4 weeks into this and I’m just learning the ropes for WIA application in Chicago, IL. I hope this long write-up was helpful.


        About two weeks ago I visited 4740 N. Sheridan in Chicago (a Workforce Training Center) and arrived at 7:45 AM

  14. August 16, 2012 2:26 pm

    I just contacted the WFTC at Sheridan. She also said to be there by 8:15. I, of course, will be there much earlier so I can avoid what Richard went through.
    Thank you everyone for sharing your insights.

  15. August 21, 2012 5:51 pm

    Update on WIA…
    I went to the WFTC on Sheridan. I arrived by 7:45 and was number 11 in line. Promptly at 8:45 we were ushered into the Resource area and waited well beyond 9:15. Once we were in the “briefing Room” we were told that basically they do not offer any WIA Grants at this location at least until February 2013. They’re understaffed and only have 3 career counselors to provide “intense and Training” counseling. I should give more info on what the parameters are. There are 3 total areas that they have.
    1. Core services (This is limited to using the resource center, i.e. computers, fax machine etc)
    2. is the intense area where you will get career counseling, interview training
    3. is the training itself (Determined by the career counselor.
    So basically as of Friday 8/17/12 all the workforce training centers in Chicago do not provide anything except core services.
    PLEASE DO NOT THINK that there is NO WIA grant money. There still is, but it has to be obtained from their affiliates for example: Jane Addams College or the Asian Human services, National Able, Albany Park Community Center etc. There is a list of these sites at You may have to do a little digging on the site. Recommended is that you call before going to see them and ask if they’re signing people up and if there is a wait list.
    I also recommend that IF you’re a veteran there is a new program out called VRAP (Veterans Retraining Assistance Program) It is very easy to sign up online.
    I hope this has helped everyone who is about to go through what I went through. Basically, you do not need to go to the WFTC’s just find their affiliates and go there and sign up for the WIA.
    Good luck!

    • August 23, 2012 5:49 pm

      Randy, thank you for participating in this informal community. Your experience and knowledge will be helpful to others seeking WIA grants in Chicago to help them acquire new skills and find new jobs.

      • September 14, 2012 11:15 am

        You’re very welcome Jacob. on another note. I was just approved for the VREP Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. So I will not no longer need to work on the WIA. If there are any Vets out there reading this. Apply for this ASAP.

      • September 14, 2012 11:18 am

        I’m glad to hear that you have found an alternate program to WIA. I hope that it provides retraining that leads to new job opportunities for you. Best of luck!


  16. September 4, 2012 2:07 pm

    Three Months of Working on WIA Grant – Progress after 3 Months

    Since learning about the WIA grant and first finding Jacob’s website, three months and three days have passed.

    Finally, after visiting the 4740 N. Sheridan City of Chicago office, a training vendor downtown, and a non-profit organization on Chicago’s northside, finally I think I begun my “intake” process for receiving a WIA grant.

    This doesn’t mean I will receive the grant, but it does mean I’m one step closer to my goal of obtaining WIA, training, and hopefully a new job.

    I hope it’s OK not to mention the non-profit that is processing me for WIA, I don’t want to overwhelm them with applicants. But if you do apply to a non-profit for a WIA grant stay in touch with them.

    I did a bi-weekly call to the woman at the non-profit who took my application. She said they had to go through older applicants first (some call back, some never do). I told her:

    “If you call me today I will be in your office tomorrow if needed to make progress on my WIA application.”

    Apparently that counted for something. About 3 days later I received a call from this woman and now I get to advance to “intake” for the WIA grant.

    Let’s just say that government employees and/or non-profit employees are swamped with trying to help the unemployed. Be persistent and incredibly nice to these people helping you with WIA. That’s my best advice.

    I’ll post more information as I learn it. Best wishes to Jacob’s readers who like me are trying to obtain a WIA grant. Thanks Jacob.

  17. September 15, 2012 6:27 pm

    What type of training were any of ya’ll or anybody seeing this actually looking for?

    • September 16, 2012 9:15 am

      Donna, I had just lost my job as a web project manager and a lot of project management roles were asking for PMP or other formal credentials, so I was looking for formal project management certification (PMP credentials) and additional software skills. I received project management and business analysis skills and the PMP credential; these ultimately helped me secure my current job at an IT consulting firm.

      • September 16, 2012 11:48 pm

        Right, I remember that Jacob, guess I was thinking more of some of the others that had commented on here; thanks, though

  18. Shana permalink
    September 27, 2012 12:36 am

    Curious as to know. I know its been 3 years since this was posted. What ever happened to the outcome? Did you receive your assistance? I’m currently in something similar. I was told by the financial counselor of the college I’m attending to go apply for WIA since I’m so low income … any change in the economy wouldn’t make a difference I’d still be broke. LOL But don’t judge, I’m working on it. Anyways, I started the process weeks before the nursing program I wanted would start. They couldn’t get me in for an appointment until tomorrow and since then I’ve been in the program for 2 weeks so far. Should I even bother or will they help me? I’ve been doing research and can’t find an answer. Btw, I’m in Florida.

    • September 27, 2012 9:57 am

      Shana, I can only speak to my experience in Illinois. I was approved for WIA, earned a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and rapidly was re-employed in the software industry. You’ll have to ask them if they can approve you for funds retroactively, since you already started the coursework; I have my doubts that it would be approved, since they have a process involving evaluating your skills, interviewing training providers and selecting one. However, keep that positive attitude and ask – it never hurts.

  19. September 27, 2012 7:39 pm

    Shana, let me weigh in; my son’s done the same thing and it’s worked for him; go for it!

    • Shana permalink
      September 27, 2012 7:53 pm

      Yeah. I went to my appointment today and the eligibility process has been completed. Now I have to wait for suitability. So far, I’ve completed the workshop, did the 3 steps of employflorida website, emailed the case worker, took the tabe test, and completed the eligibility process. From what other students are saying, we aren’t going to get it because we’ve started the program already. Even though we started the process waaay before the program itself started. So sad but I will see it run it’s course and post what happens in my situation. I’ll just grin and bear it and be grateful to have the ability to even go to school. 9 more months to go!

      • September 28, 2012 7:52 pm

        Hang in there, Shana, like I said, my son didn’t get it retroactive but he did get it for the rest of his program – 2 more full-time semesters now, so about the same amount of time

  20. Mira Valenti permalink
    September 29, 2012 10:19 am

    I’ve been in the WIA program since June 26, 2012. I’ve been unemployed for 2 1/2 years since February 2010. I was downsized and a help desk technician. I’m seeking training for business analysis, requirements writing and data modeling.

    My WIA orientation was June 26th. Since that date I’ve attended a Power Employment workshop, had my WIA application approved due to low income, passed the math and English test, and have attended the Capstone Experience through Harper College which is a WIA requirement in the Northwestern burbs of Chicago. My WIA office is out of Arlington Heights, IL.

    My grant application sat for 4 weeks waiting for the Review Board to meet. Typically they meet once a week but didn’t meet for 4 consecutive weeks due to Labor Day and the entire month of September. I was told after their meeting I had to submit another school review. I had already submitted 2. One for MITS in Schaumburg and one for the City College (Truman). I was advised to interview ACT out of Glenview, only finding out that they don’t offer a program for business analysts.

    The review board asked that I seek assistance through Willow Creek Church for getting a car as a single mom so I can attend training over 45 minutes away from my residence. I live 2 blocks from an approved vendor. Considering I don’t have a driver’s license I deem it unlikely I’ll be given a car. Also Willow Creek expects participants in the program to attend their services. I’m Jewish and a lesbian, it’s unlikely I’ll attend a Christian church.

    Hopefully this is my final obstacle to grant approval. What I find infuriating is the fact WIA requires participants to sit through entry level courses in Word and Excel. I have 10 plus years experience in both and was thoroughly bored to learn how to bold sentences and cut and paste.

    • September 29, 2012 5:03 pm

      Mira, I’m sorry to hear that you have had such a struggle out in the ‘burbs. In the city, I know there was a training requirement, but you could place out of it with a college degree or successful test completion, as I recall. It’s been a few years for me, so the memory is getting foggier, but I know that I didn’t have Word or Excel coursework. That’s certainly frustrating – too bad they couldn’t pay you to teach it 🙂 Good luck with the next steps – hopefully they are the final obstacle.

    • September 29, 2012 5:08 pm


      Thanks to Jacob, we can all comment on our WIA experiences together.

      It seems like anyone trying to get WIA funding and training has a long journey.

      Here’s hoping you can share a success story for us all…

      As for me, I am attending two Microsoft SharePoint classes next week in downtown Chicago courtesy of my WIA training vendor.

      Good luck to all of us and thanks to Jacob for this site.


  21. Mira Valenti permalink
    September 29, 2012 9:57 pm

    Jacob, I had read that if you had a college degree you wouldn’t have to take a math/English test. In Arlington Heights that isn’t the case, even with transcripts and my degree in hand. My advisor was on vacation last week so I’m hoping I have grant approval in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be taking a course load of UML, Rational XDE and RUP.

    • September 30, 2012 8:38 am

      Math/English Test

      I went through a Chicago non-profit to get my WIA grant.

      I have a BA and an MBA.

      On my first visit, I was required to take a three hour combined math/English test. I believe I finished it in 2 hours. They never told me the results and I never bothered to ask.

      I took that test on July 12 when I began my WIA process at the non-profit. That was 2 1/2 months ago. Tomorrow I am auditing my first WIA related class.

      My notes tell me that my first contact with anyone regarding WIA was May 30th. Luckily, my 2nd contact regarding WIA was with Jacob on May 31. Today is September 30. As I said, tomorrow I have my first WIA related class.

      So, knock on wood, for me learning about WIA to taking my first WIA related course has taken 4 months. I’m still nervous until I know that my voucher has been approved and delivered to my training vendor.

      As always, I am grateful to Jacob for maintaining this blog.


  22. Mira Valenti permalink
    September 30, 2012 6:01 pm

    I am extremely happy to have found Jacob’s blog. It’s been helpful in navigating the WIA process. Per my advisor I’ve handed everything in and attended every session needed. I’m just waiting for my voucher. Rumor is WIA gets new money starting October 1st. That would be great timing since my paperwork is all done and handed in. Keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for good news this week. I’ll keep you informed.

  23. Mira Valenti permalink
    October 7, 2012 9:50 pm

    Just spoke to a lady in my accountability group tonight, telling me she’s not going to said accountability group. She said her advisor called her late Thursday afternoon to tell her she could pick up her voucher Tuesday since IDES is closed for the holiday on Monday. Fingers crossed, I’m next. We were in the same group so I should be pretty close in line.

  24. October 8, 2012 12:09 am

    Accountability group? hadn’t heard of that – wonder what’s happened with Shana?

    • Shana permalink
      October 8, 2012 11:02 am

      Hey there. As of right now, I am waiting for the suitability case worker to contact me. No one has contacted me as of yet. I went to the eligibility appointment, filled out more paperwork and was told the only way at this point to receive help was if I claimed hardship. However, since she was only the eligibility case worker, she was not sure. Still got my fingers crossed. I’ll update when I hear from somebody about anything!

      • October 8, 2012 11:11 am


        As a general rule, when I was waiting for word for someone regarding my WIA status, I would call them on the phone at least once a week. I would always remind them of who I was, our last contact, and thank them for their help (everyone is under staffed).

        This method worked better once I was working through a non-profit rather than a government agency.


  25. October 8, 2012 8:24 am

    Richard asked me to share an update of some good news with everyone:


    I wanted to thank you and let you know that today I was informed that my ITA voucher for WIA is ready. It’s official, I have the WIA (Workforce Investment Act) grant.

    From searching for WIA help to getting the voucher took just over 4 months.

    1.In November of last year I visited a training vendor in Glenview, IL, and they talked about “free training” for the unemployed. They used the word WIA and I remembered that buzzword.
    2.May 30, 2012 I emailed that same training vendor for WIA information (they never responded).
    3.May 31st, 2012 I sent you an email and we arranged to meet. Through you I learned the WIA method and began going to agencies looking for WIA help.
    4.October 5, 2012, I received an email from my non-profit Workforce vendor that my ITA voucher has been cut and is ready for pickup. I’ll pick it up and take it to my training vendor.

    Getting a WIA grant took just over 4 months of countless emails, phone calls, visits, applications, a few tests, selecting a training vendor, and patience. I cannot begin to estimate how much time this took.

    But thanks to your help Jacob, I will learn Microsoft SharePoint, pass the PMP, and perhaps even pass the ITIL designation. My WIA journey has just begun, thanks Jacob.


  26. October 8, 2012 1:59 pm

    eligibility/suitability; what’s the difference?

    • Shana permalink
      October 8, 2012 2:43 pm

      Eligibility is when you provide all demographic information such as birth certificates, social security cards, Medicaid, Food Stamps and any assistance provided and fill out even more paperwork. Suitability is when they verify and determine if providing the voucher will actually benefit or will I just put it to waste. Please note, I asked the same thing (lol). She looked down and smiled and said that she thinks I’ll qualify. Now it’s been a week and no one has called me back. I’ll do what Richard said and call weekly.

      Congrats Richard!?!

      • October 8, 2012 4:35 pm

        So, Shana, is that where, at least in my son’s case, they normally would have you take all these, like aptitude tests, to see if you are “qualified”; oh, right, get it, I’m thinking, for the particular direction you’re wanting to go, or if you don’t have one, they would point you in one?, like in my older son’s case, they had a program they were pushing they then tried to more or less push him into but like in your case to see you actually have the aptitude for nursing? like in my other son’s case, where he’d already started into college in his auto tech class, same thing but he had already taken all some tests earlier so we were pretty sure it wouldn’t be a problem like I’m thinking your worker’s thinking too so do you think you’ll have to take more tests; the TABE’s not enough is it? I do think he had to take some more even though he’d taken those earlier because they weren’t for the WIA program.

  27. October 9, 2012 3:33 pm

    It’s official. As of today, I have a WIA grant.
    Although I first learned of WIA in November 2011, I didn’t need it because I had a job.
    May 30th of 2012 I called someone for WIA information (they never called back).
    Obtaining the WIA grant took over 4 months for me from start to finish.
    Critical in this search was meeting Jacob through this blog.
    Getting a WIA grant is just the beginning to re-train with a valuable skill. I’m becoming Microsoft SharePoint certified and will study and pass the PMP test.
    Thanks again to Jacob for his help and advice. Best wishes to all still trying to obtain the WIA grant.


  28. Mira Valenti permalink
    October 13, 2012 12:45 pm

    Two weeks ago I was informed my program, application has been approved. Another person that is in my accountability group received her voucher. She is in WIA but through the dislocated worker funding because she was laid off from Allstate after 25 years.

    I’m under the adult low income WIA funding and am on the wait list for a voucher. My advisor told me that those on the wait list typically get funding, it’s just a matter of when. Keeping my fingers crossed that I hear something soon.

  29. Mira Valenti permalink
    October 17, 2012 11:29 am

    I received a call from my WIA advisor this morning. I am cleared to pick up my voucher tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. Not quite 4 months from beginning to end. I started June 26, 2012. I’ll have my voucher in my hand tomorrow.

  30. Shana permalink
    October 17, 2012 10:00 pm

    Well. Drum roll please? … I would like to announce that I received my WIA voucher!?! Apparently, there was a slight issue with me already starting the program but due to hardship, things managed to go in my favor. Yay! I honestly thought since I had already started the nursing program, that I would not have gotten it. I am so over joyed and would like to thank each and every one of you guys for the support and advice to keep going through it all! For those out there still waiting, hang in there.

    • October 18, 2012 11:50 pm

      What’d I tell ya? Congratulations! no go for it; keep us posted on how you’re doing!

    • October 19, 2012 7:41 am

      Congratulations, Shana. That’s three in just a couple of weeks. I’m happy for all of you sticking with it and seeing it through – now get some great training and start your new careers!

  31. October 18, 2012 11:51 pm

    eergh! teach me to look before I post – NOW go for it!

  32. Mira Valenti permalink
    October 19, 2012 10:08 am

    I found this blog to be extremely helpful and supportive during my journey of getting WIA approval. I start class this Saturday and have already read one of my manuals twice. My first certification will be for CBAP (certified business analysis professional) followed by UML, Rational XDE and RUP. My advice would be if your advisor gives you more paper work to complete get on it, send it back. If they ask you for 3 job advertisements needing specific certifications, send them 6 just to be safe. I found persistence and following up with my advisor worked to my advantage. Several times I told my fiancé something I learned in sales years ago…”It’s not stalking unless they tell you to stop.” I called my advisor, emailed my advisor, made sure they received what I sent them and kept asking what’s the next step. In Arlington Heights if you don’t ask what the next step is they won’t tell you.

    • Antwaun permalink
      November 11, 2012 10:57 am


      I’m currently attempting to get WIA funds. I was recently laid off from my employer. WIA came to visit my employer after we were told what day would be our final day of employment. I live in Chicago, but I worked in the suburbs of Chicago, so I was told I had a choice to either work with WorkNet in Chicago or the burbs..I chose the burbs. My question to anyone is; I finally received a call from my counselor only for her to tell me that because I’ve been in Sales(& I’ve many things for various companies) that they wouldn’t help me ”change careers” because I’m looking to earn my IT certifications?! My career path is IT, but unfortunately I need something that shows I’m qualified.

      I uttered those same words to my counselor & told her that I’ve done the research on the school that provides training, I’ve met with the instructors & together we were able to put together a solid plan for the certification courses. She said that she would have her supervisor call me back after veterans day. So, is that true? I can’t get IT training because I’ve been in Sales? How do I respond to that?



      • November 12, 2012 6:56 pm

        Antwaun, thanks for reaching out here. I had an IT background before using WIA to earn my project management cert. If your career path is IT, can you show that any of your sales work was IT-focused, like pre-sales engineering? That might help “bridge the gap”.

        On a side note, my firm is a software consulting firm hiring salespeople, so I’m going to follow up with you privately.

  33. Jason Mangold permalink
    October 29, 2012 3:48 pm

    Hi Jacob,

    I wanted to take a minute and comment on your board. I work for New Horizons computer learning Center. We actually do the WIA meetings in a few of the IDES offices throughout the city of Chicago and Suburbs. I wouldn’t mind explaining the process to people that may stumble across this site and have additional questions about WIA and VRAP (I do it daily anyway.)

    If you are interested in this I can post my contact information for you.


  34. mike permalink
    November 9, 2012 8:41 am

    how difficult it the Tabe test — I am not very good in Math if I am able to apply

  35. Jose Morales permalink
    November 10, 2012 10:56 am

    I would like to get into the trucking in invariment what do i need to do to get the WIA program

    • November 12, 2012 6:51 pm

      Jose, you’ll want to attend one of the WIA workshops hosted by IDES or one of their non-profit partners.

  36. Susanne permalink
    March 15, 2013 10:17 am

    Jacob you’re awesome! Thanks for the thorough information. As I read your story I imagined you waiting in a long ass line, frustrated but eager to get your free skills. Now I certainly know what to expect.



  37. Mike permalink
    May 1, 2013 7:08 pm

    is the wia all about taking classes or can they train me while i work?

    • May 2, 2013 8:34 am

      Mike, other participants in the comments may have had different experiences. In my personal experience, my WIA advisor was focused on getting me gainfully employed. The WIA training was intended to make that easier to accomplish. By the time I was granted WIA funds, I had secured contract work as a software developer, but not full-time work, so my advisor pushed to approve the funds to help me acquire skills to secure a full-time role.

      • Shamequa Epting permalink
        July 8, 2013 1:55 am

        My name is Shamequa and I found out about the WIA program through a customer at the Walgreens that. Work for here in Chicago. I was gonna go & inquire about it but you guys are telling me that I have to be unemployed????

      • August 22, 2013 2:41 pm

        Shamequa, my experience was triggered by unemployment. Although everyone I know who was able to benefit from WIA was unemployed, I don’t actually know if that is a requirement. The program may offer options for underemployed individuals – I recommend calling or visiting your local Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) office.

      • August 22, 2013 3:30 pm

        My son was not unemployed when he got it

  38. Sophie permalink
    May 30, 2014 10:25 pm

    Another thing to keep a good record of is your work search log. As of currently, they require you to fill out a three page work search log as proof that you have looked and was unsuccessful in obtaining work. I have to go through my emails to see where and when I applied so I could fill out the form when I go to meet my “career consultant” next week.

  39. Kim permalink
    January 23, 2015 12:45 pm

    Jacob so interesting how long ago this post was written and yet still applies. I have an orientation scheduled for Monday the 26th. I have to say, nothing but aggressive research brought me to this point as I had never heard of the WIA program prior to reading the unemployment websites, guides etc. for Illinois. The unemployment office made mention of job searches but NOT of free certification programs, sadly. I attended an orientation at Microtrain in downtown Chicago as they advertised themselves well and turned out to be very knowledgeable about steps required to obtain the voucher, as well as BEST offices to contact in order to expedite the lengthy application process. I’m hoping the process for approval is somewhat swift as my unemployment runs out in April. But I understand that if you begin unemployment 24 hours after obtaining approval for the WIA voucher, you can still move forward with the certification program while working. It’s a crazy juggling act right now trying to apply and still seek employment with the hope of being accepted to the WIA program first! Thanks for this post STILL in 2015 you really have to dig to find minimal info at best.

    • January 23, 2015 1:31 pm


      Best wishes to you on your WIA journey and nothing but “thanks” to Jacob for providing this forum.

      First, I went to MicroTrain. What I am telling you is exactly what I told the owner 1-2 years ago, face to face. His marketing is excellent. Overall the instructors were average (I am a professional trainer among other things). My PMP trainers were good but my other instructors were uninspired and average at best. Their job placement was below average. They prepped me with an “elevator speech”, a resume, and they periodically sent me job leads they had found. Their job counselors lacked follow through and at one point, a job counselor was given a new position at MicroTrain and didn’t have the courtesy to even inform me that he wasn’t working with me anymore. Job placement services and broken promises at MicroTrain were a huge disappointment.

      MicroTrain needs to improve it’s training and job placement services, and that’s exactly what I told the owner in a one hour meeting one or two years ago. He politely listened, and I thank him for that.

      Second, do NOT use City of Chicago services to try and get WIA. The office I went to was near Lawrence and Sheridan. The first 50 people who enter the building are given forms, that’s about it. That was the method 2 or more years ago, perhaps it is now different.

      Third, definitely go to Pyramid Partnership at 3057 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657 • 773-975-9898. Yes, there is paperwork. Yes, it took me about 4-8 weeks to go through their process fully and get the WIA grant. But everyone at Pyramid was friendly, kept their promises, and gave me hope that I could actually get a WIA grant.

      Applying for WIA, finding a good WIA vendor, taking valuable classes and getting certifications, and then using those new skills to build or repair a career is not for the “faint of heart”. None of it is easy.

      Yes, thanks to a lunch with Jacob I was inspired to get a WIA grant, pass the PMP (Project Manager Professional certification), and learn some Microsoft SharePoint.

      Best wishes to you Kim, and as always, special thanks to Jacob.

      Richard Kraneis, PMP
      Chicago, IL USA

      • January 23, 2015 1:35 pm

        Kim and Richard, thank you for the kind words. I’m humbled and amazed that my little blogging exercise continues to provide value to others. Best of luck, Kim!

      • January 23, 2015 1:47 pm


        I think it’s important for anyone reading about WIA and career repair/transitions to know their lives will never be the same after a significant time of underemployment. I know my transition is not yet complete, but my life is changed forever.

        What the recently employed must do is “let go” of their past. I never want to return to being a help desk manager for a shoddy technology company. What I do wish to do is return to teaching and training, on my own terms.

        True story coming…

        I was teaching on Chicago’s south side last January (second day of class) when a young man walks into the training room, looks at me, and perfectly pronounces my name and says: You’re Richard Kraneis.

        I walk up to him, surrounded by my students, offer my hand and say, “Yes, I’m Richard Kraneis. Have we met before?”

        He looks at me and says: “No, we’ve never met. But I’ve seen your videos on YouTube.”


        After being laid off, I found your blog Jacob, had milkshakes with you downtown, and proceeded to fight my way through WIA red tape. I did get WIA approval, found a vendor, studied for and passed the PMP.

        Then I decided to do a few YouTube videos and then I did some more.

        The young man who entered my training room last year saw one of my YouTube videos because I had milkshakes with a guy named Jacob two years before.

        Long post, I know 🙂

        Anyone seeking WIA funding needs to know that their lives will probably never be the same. I don’t want to ever be the help desk manager for a poorly run technology company. But if I’m lucky and work hard enough, I and the other people who read this blog of yours Jacob will find their life is better than it was before, transformed.

        Thanks for having that milkshake with a stranger over two years ago Jacob.

        Best Wishes,


      • January 23, 2015 1:35 pm

        Kim and Richard, thank you for the kind words. I’m humbled and amazed that my little blogging exercise continues to provide value to others. Best of luck, Kim!

  40. June 26, 2015 8:41 pm

    Thank you Jacob for this anxiety relief! I am scheduled for my orientation this month and really want to be approved. Im not really sure what will happen but I have been sporadically employed and unemployed for 8 years! I am ready for a change because a general bachelors degree is getting me nowhere and I have seen the training education programs of interest that I would like to start as a new career. I just hope they can help me.

    • June 26, 2015 10:24 pm

      Eric, I appreciate that my post continues to provide value to folks like you looking for a bit of encouragement. Keep us posted!

  41. June 26, 2015 10:26 pm

    when my son finished his WIA training program he has since been continuously employed in his field

    • June 26, 2015 10:28 pm

      Excellent news, Donna!

      • June 27, 2015 8:57 am

        thanks – how do you do the “like”?

      • June 27, 2015 8:46 pm

        Liking a post is done with a button near the Share section. Liking a comment appears to me to be something achievable only through the WordPress mobile app – I don’t see anywhere on the post when I browse with my phone’s mobile browser.

      • June 27, 2015 11:14 pm

        thanks, although I found another blog here on wordpress that had it so don’t know

  42. Cookie permalink
    April 30, 2016 12:51 am

    Jacob, I am impressed you are still replying to this post 5 years after you wrote it. What bought me here, is that I am in the process of seeing my counselor Monday with my packet with all of the docs they need to approve me for the WIN grant. They call it Workforce Investment Network in Tennessee. I have been out of permanent work for almost two years, but briefly worked for 5 months last year in contract positions. So I met WIN’s definition of dislocated worker since my assignments ended due to lack of work.

    I am trying to transition into a business analyst role, I did some BA work short term, but it wasn’t enough to make me a competitive candidate for other BA roles, which is why I am having difficulty landing employment. What is making me nervous is that I have two degrees and while you explained that they (WIA) do approve people with degrees for the grant, me and others with degrees in my area are under the impression that having a degree disqualifies you for assistance. I am afraid that the board may reject me since I have an BBA and a MBA, despite me not being able to find suitable permanent employment. The counselor has not raised any concerns about my degrees and if they do not approve me I will not be able to get the much needed IT certification to boost my current skills to get my foot in door in a IT BA or PM role. I am hoping for the best. I have run out of options.

    • April 30, 2016 7:00 am

      Cookie – I wish you the best. I keep replying because kind people like you keep posting. I never expected that this would turn out to be my most popular blog post ever, but I apparently get more hits than several official government sites.

      I know the process and requirements for approval vary by state, and possibly municipality, so I hope that you get the support you need. This has been a tough stretch for many people and I hope that things continue to improve.

  43. David Young permalink
    August 24, 2016 4:42 pm

    Hi i am registered at Malcolm X but I’m not enrolled because i was considered as international student. So i needed to pay my semester tuition fees as international student. Do i qualify for WIA grant?

  44. August 25, 2016 12:08 am

    Jacob, my son just got his Master Technician certification – all starting from getting his WIA grant!


  1. My adventure with the Illinois Workforce Development System (Part 2) « General Specialist
  2. “Training up” with new skills (IWDS/WIA part 3) « General Specialist

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