Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Community organizer is behind Chicago's Manufacturing Works jobs program.

Juan Salgado, President and CEO of Chicago’s Instituto del Progresso Latino, was awarded a prestigious fellowship by the John D. & Catherine T.  MacArthur Foundation on Tuesday. The 46-year-old community leader has helped immigrants overcome barriers to success in the workplace on Chicago’s southwest side since 2001, when he took over the reins of the highly successful Instituto del Progresso Latino.

Salgado has led the way in helping Chicago’s Latino immigrants move beyond menial jobs despite limited English-language speaking skills and a lack of high school diplomas needed to qualify for vocational training programs. He was one of three Chicago-based community leaders named MacArthur Fellows, which brings a stipend of $625,000 paid out over a five-year period.

Salgado was the driving force behind the Manufacturing Works job training program that was profiled by the Alliance for American Manufacturing back in July. The institute is a Chicago-based organization that has worked in the city’s Latino community to provide education and workforce development for the past 38 years. Things really took off after it was commissioned to do a project for the city in 2002.

Instituto was working with three other workforce development groups assigned to develop Ford Motor Company’s Ford Supplier Park, located across the street from the Ford Assembly Plant on the city’s South Side. The supplier park consisted of 11 tier one Ford suppliers. The Instituto team did such an excellent job on the project that the city and Cook County, Illinois hired the workforce development team to continue training and placing workers throughout the Chicago-area manufacturing community. That project, known as Manufacturing Works, is what resulted. It officially began operations in 2005, continues to thrive today and is looked upon as a model for workforce training and job placement.

Salgado is a big reason for that. A community organizer, he developed a model to fast-track those with lower levels of education and language proficiency into job placements. Working in collaboration with community colleges, he sees that such potential workers get specialized skills-training and intensive language teaching, preparing them for well-paying jobs in the health care industry and manufacturing.

“To me, urban development is not about building stadiums,” said Salgado. “It’s about developing human talent. I hope the fellowship will enable us to make a bigger impact with our work – to have the model adapted by others and to take our practices in the field beyond our community.”

Salgado continues to broaden the Instituto’s influence. In 2010 he opened a charter school, Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, which offers counseling and support to students beyond graduation through the first two years of postsecondary education or training. Programs in other states, including Texas and California, have tried to replicate his techniques. Salgado has built an effective ladder to opportunity in the Instituto del Progresso Latino, empowering individuals, lifting families out of poverty and creating a model program with a nationwide reach.

Salgado received an A.A. (1989) from Moraine Valley Community College, a B.A. (1991) from Illinois Wesleyan University and M.U.P. (1993) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He was program director of the Resurrection Project, a community development organization in Chicago prior to becoming CEO of the Instituto del Progresso Latino in 2001.

“Juan’s creative thinking and ability to reach out to a diverse group of people has made the Instituto del Progresso Latino an example for programs throughout the United States,” said Tony Garritano, the director of Manufacturing Works since its inception. “He deserves this honor as much as anyone.”