Workforce Development

Illinois has the fifth largest creative workforce in the country, with more than 22,000 creative businesses and 216,000 creative workers across the state.

Creative workers encompass a wide array of creative disciplines and industry areas.

They also contribute powerfully to our state’s economy: The Illinois creative sector generates $30 billion in economic activity annually, a greater share of the Illinois gross state product than construction or agriculture. 

Strengthening, growing, and sustaining this creative workforce takes deliberate and strategic action.

We believe the best approach to building a supportive workforce system can be broken into four pillars of work. By building partnerships with research institutions such as the University of Illinois and the University of Illinois Chicago, Arts Alliance Illinois is helping ground this work in data.


Workforce development within the existing creative industries, including paid apprenticeships, training programs, and increasing the number of well-paying jobs within the creative sector.



Short-term commissions in a variety of civic and social cohesion projects to employ creative sector workers.



Employment initiatives for creative workers seeking more stability than their current practice offers. These initiatives would transition workers to more stable employment scenarios in other industries that complement their creative practice.



National, statewide, and local policy interventions that stabilize gig workers across industries with portable benefits, basic income, housing, and a social safety net.

Illinois Creative Workforce Activation

The Illinois Creative Workforce Activation (ICWA) program was conceived to expand the employment opportunities and career paths open to the state’s creative workers while also addressing needs in key growth industries in Illinois.

Some creative workers are interested in pivoting and applying their skillsets to other fields. We are exploring how to support these creative workers by providing training to translate the skills commonly found among artists and creatives to serve other industries in need of highly-skilled workers, including public health, advanced manufacturing and information technology.

These pathways allow workers to align their stabilizing job with their creative practice, supporting their efforts both within and outside of the creative economy.

Research and Resources

Access relevant reports from the Alliance, field research, and policy recommendations and implementation examples from across the nation on our resources page.

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