Key Moments in Cara Connects’ First 10 Years
In 2023, we mark 10 years of our mission-driven social enterprise, Cara Connects. Today, Connects works with hundreds of job seekers each year to connect them with temp-to-perm job assignments with leading Chicago companies. In celebration of this momentous occasion, we share key moments from Cara Connects history.
Cara Connects Launches
In 2013, we could feel the weight of the job market shifting beneath us in the throes of the still-lingering recession. We realized employers had to be nimble with their resources while having the ability to ramp up and down with the ebbs and flows of the market. We too had to be nimble and expand our reach to integrate the many talented people throughout our city that sat on the sidelines of the mainstream workforce and were now looking to jump back in. And with that, Cara Connects launched to connect quality talent with quality jobs. Our first customer was our friends at Catholic Charities – who still partner with us today!
And the Winner Is…
We receive the Social Innovator Award at the 2015 Chicago Innovation Awards. This honor helped validate the work and mission of Cara Connects while further propelling our reach and impact in our infancy as a business.
Launching a Signature Partnership
We secure our first assignment with Habitat. This begins a partnership that will grow to become Cara Connects most successful. To date, more than 1,000 jobs have been filled at Habitat properties across Chicago.
Reaching New Neighborhoods
In 2018, we launch a co-location with our friends at Northwest Center, a non-profit organization that offers housing counseling, financial coaching, and business development support. In this partnership, we are able to provide resource support and employment opportunities directly to hundreds of residents of the Belmont-Cragin community each year.
Thanks to a grant from UnidosUS and Verizon Wireless, Northwest Center and Cara Connects start a Latinos @ Work program in 2019 named Adelante, the Spanish word for “Forward”. The program focuses on teaching job seekers in the Belmont Cragin community how to competitively enter the workforce with digital skills that lead to gainful employment. To date, more than 150 people have been trained through Adelante.
In 2019, we celebrate our 1,000th Cara Connects assignment. Since launching, we are proud to have worked with more than six dozen companies to fill critical roles.
Providing Essential Services and Relief
We partner with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Governor JB Pritzker, and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity on an $8 million investment to expand job opportunities for residents in Chicago and Cook County who have become unemployed as a result of or during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this, we worked with The Partnership to place, train, and hire professionally displaced residents for an array of jobs in assisting with local disaster relief programs and in-demand industries connected to the COVID crisis.
Deepening Our Community Presence
In June of 2022, we launch the Corridor Ambassador program, where our ambassadors deepened community presence by welcoming and supporting the people who visit, shop, and work along commercial corridors in low- and moderate-income service areas or shopping districts that saw a 15% or more drop-in activity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program was a part of the Chicago Recovery Plan’s strategy for equitable economic recovery and support for thriving and safe communities.
Marking a Milestone
We celebrate 10 years of Cara Connects and the nearly 1,200 people who have been placed into more than 2,400 job assignments. Thank you to everyone who has made this work possible!
Your support of Cara Collective helps fuel the work of Cara Connects. As we celebrate 10 years of connecting top talent and quality employers, please consider making a donation at www.caracollective.org/connects10.