SWOP hired eighteen Southwest residents to work as contact tracers through the Southwest Employment Collaborative. Chicago needs contact tracers because COVID-19 continues to spread at high levels throughout the city, particularly on the southwest side.
Joel Rodriguez, SWOP organizer, said that “having contact tracers working through SWOP allows us to utilize our collective power and network of 44 member institutions to provide families with valuable information and resources that we hope will in turn lower cases of COVID-19 on the southwest side and better inform the community of local and city resources.”
Contact tracers help alert people if they have been exposed to COVID-19, share information about symptoms, and connect people to testing and supportive services. Rodriguez explained, “The grant is from the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership for the City of Chicago COVID Contact Tracing Corps. SWOP has hired thirteen full-time and four part-time contact tracers along with one full-time Supervising Contact Tracer.”
The Southwest Employment Collaborative (SWEC) is a newly formed SWOP led collaborative that is comprised of partner organizations PODER, Greater Southwest Development Corporation, Metropolitan Family Services, Daley College, Youth Job Center and SWOP. SWEC’s mission is to connect job seekers to employment opportunities. It uses a workforce development model that decreases barriers to sustained employment and produces a skilled Southwest Chicago workforce through targeted training programs. These training programs are informed by the community and employer/industry partners who are committed to the programs and participants.
Representatives from these partner organizations interviewed all of the applicants and selected this cohort. SWEC partners will also support contact tracers with professional development including career advising, resume development, interview preparation, and “specified workforce development training in the areas of manufacturing, finance, insurance, community health work and community organizing,” explained Rodriguez.
The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership will also be offering an Earn and Learn Program to contact tracers. While contact tracers work, they can elect to undertake education and training to prepare for future career opportunities including: Medical Office Administrator, Community Health Worker, Health Information Technician, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and Registered Nurse.