Study at CLC cost-free with Transform Lake County

Natasha Phillips was looking to find a new career outside of customer service. While visiting College of Lake County (CLC), she learned about a cost-free education through the Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant.

"The WEI grant was the reason I decided to come to CLC," Phillips said. "Heating, ventilation and air conditioning is a trade skill that's always going to be needed, so I can have a stable career."

CLC received its fifth round of the WEI grant for $700,000 from the Illinois Community College Board.

The WEI grant focuses on expanding and providing equitable training opportunities for minority students in at-risk communities in high-demand fields. It allows individuals the ability to obtain full-time employment paying at least 30% above the regional living wage.

Through the WEI Transform Lake County program, CLC recruits and serves underrepresented, low-income and underemployed Lake County community members with workforce training, focusing in North Chicago, Waukegan, Zion and Round Lake.

Scholarship funds cover all tuition and fees, course materials and industry exam fees. Students also receive a cost-of-living stipend to help offset time spend in classes.

Students can still apply to earn short-term career certificates in:

• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning

• Welding and fabrication

Selected programs stem from community outreach discovering what the community interests are.

"People I talk to always ask me if certain programs can be added," said Career Program Manager Crystal Overton. "Not everything is of interest to everyone, so we tailor it toward what the communities want."

Like Phillips, Miguel Ramirez also took advantage of the WEI grant to begin a new career path after working in different retail manager roles. After reading about it on social media, he decided to take a chance and apply for the welding program.

"I was staying stagnant, I couldn't really move up from where I was," Ramirez said. "In just one year, I'm going to be able to move into something better for me and my family."

The program also includes free workshops for students, part of the college's plan to provide grant recipients with a holistic experience. They cover topics like mental health awareness, financial literacy and professional development.

For information and to apply, visit

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