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Skills for Chicagoland’s Future names new CEO, eyes national expansion

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Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a nonprofit that connects job seekers from disadvantaged neighborhoods with companies that are hiring, named a new CEO on Wednesday to help spearhead a national expansion.

The organization hired Bridget Altenburg, who previously served as CEO of the National Able Network, a Chicago-based group with a similar mission of helping the unemployed.

Altenburg succeeds Marie Trzupek Lynch, who resigned as Skills’ founding CEO last year to take the top human resources job at financial services firm Morningstar.

Skills is in the middle of a fundraising campaign to bring its job placement model to other cities. It currently operates in Chicago and Rhode Island and announced plans to enter Phoenix, partnering with local organizations such as the chamber of commerce. Its long-term goal is to be in 25 cities.

Altenburg said she was drawn to Skills because its strong ties to local companies gives it a good understanding of their hiring needs. She said three years after the pandemic disrupted employment patterns, there’s still volatility in the job market.

“The most important thing a job seeker can bring is a willingness to learn. Technology is changing so fast,” she said.

Sectors such as manufacturing, hospitality and health care are anxious to fill jobs even as technology firms, after a hiring binge, have been laying off workers, Altenburg said.

She joins the nonprofit after serving 10 years at National Able Network, including five of them as CEO. With stops at the volunteer resource group Chicago Cares and the Academy for Urban School Leadership, Altenburg has raised $50 million in public and private support over 15 years, Skills reported.

She’s also a former engineer officer in the U.S. Army. During five years of enlistment, starting in 1996, she was deployed to Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

“The experience gave me a comfort with discomfort,” Altenburg said. “I learned to really not be afraid when there’s a challenge. I was in a tent with 10 men. I realized I could do anything.”

Altenburg earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian and French from the U.S. Military Academy and an MBA from Columbia Business School in New York.

Since launching in 2012, Skills has placed 19,000 unemployed or underemployed people, mostly in Chicago, into full-time positions at no cost to the job seeker. Altenburg said the group is currently finding jobs for about 130 people per month.

It has philanthropic backing from Chicago business leader Penny Pritzker and many others, including foundations and large businesses. The organization has offices downtown and in Englewood and North Lawndale.

Skills operates with a staff of 56 and an estimated annual budget of $9 million.



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