Students eligible for free tuition at Oakton through Illinois’ Workforce Equity Initiative

Manufacturing Technology is among the certificate programs in which students can enroll tuition-free through the Workforce Equity Initiative

Des Plaines, Ill. (April 5, 2022) – Students can enroll in free short-term certificate programs at Oakton College that will quickly prepare them to succeed in in-demand careers, thanks to an Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) grant.

Oakton received more than $768,000 through the ICCB's Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) — which addresses education and unemployment gaps for Black and other minoritized communities. The Workforce Equity Initiative allows individuals who reside in qualifying areas within Evanston, Maine and Niles Townships to enroll in the following programs at Oakton, tuition-free:

These short-term certificate programs — which can be completed in as little as one semester — will start students on employment pathways into high-wage, high-demand jobs and allow them to continue their post-secondary education and gain additional credentials.

According to the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2020 annual median pay was as follows:

  • EMTs and paramedics - $36,650
  • Nursing assistants - $30,830
  • Real estate brokers and sales agents - $51,220
  • CDL heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers - $47,130
  • Pharmacy technicians - $35,100
  • CNC manufacturing machinists and tool and die makers - $47,040
  • CNC programmers - $ 61,010

Evidence shows that there have been equity gaps in serving Black students in short-term, high-demand career programs at educational institutions. Oakton is committed to ensuring that the workforce is sufficiently trained with technical and "essential employability" skills (general skills required to succeed in all labor market sectors, such as math and reading).

"Oakton is committed to providing economic opportunities for residents of District 535, particularly those who have historically been underserved, including the Black community,” said Oakton President Joianne L. Smith, Ph.D. “Through programs such as Oakton's forthcoming Emory Williams Academy for Black Men, Black Student Success Program, and Black Allyship Programs, the college is creating an environment where all students feel like they belong and receive the support they need to be successful. Support from the ICCB's Workforce Equity Initiative will further allow us to improve equity for students and help create a stronger local workforce.”

Along with Oakton, the funding will be used by 17 other Illinois community colleges and nearly 20 other organizations statewide that serve minoritized populations under Illinois' Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) or the Innovative Bridge and Transition Grant Program (IBT).

Prospective students interested in registering at Oakton through the Workforce Equity Initiative should register to attend an upcoming information session by visiting them online or email