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In Illinois, a lot of state employees who work daytime shifts have been competing for nightshift jobs! The reason: so they can take advantage of a joint union and state program that pays for university classes for undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. studies.

The State of Illinois Upward Mobility Program is a career program designed to give state employees an opportunity to advance to more challenging, higher paying positions. It is a joint venture between the State of Illinois and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

The program covers all tuition costs at public institutions and a portion of private universities' tuition.

Employees receive individual counseling to inform them of the career opportunities available and to guide them in developing their career plans. Participants take proficiency exams and/or complete required education and training programs designed to provide the skills and knowledge needed for advancement.

Employees can work toward advancement in five major career paths: data processing, office services, accounting, human services, and Medical.

Upward Mobility: Shannon Gnaegy

Shannon Gnaegy is a Youth Supervisor at Illinois Youth Center in Pere Marquette on the Illinois River. She has worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift since September 1999. With help from the Upward Mobility Program, she is pursuing a counseling degree during the day.

Here's what Shannon told Livelyhood about working the night shift and studying at the university:

I have worked the night shift since I began my career with the department so that I can attend school in the mornings when I get off work. I could go to day shift if I wanted; however, my top priority right now is to finish school and I am finally almost there!

I am in the Upward Mobility program which is offered by the state to anyone who is willing to participate and wants to move up through a promotion within the state. One of the greatest benefits of this program is that it pays for approximately three fourths of my tuition. The only obligation I have is to work for the state for at least two years after I graduate, which is what my plans were anyway. And of course, you must pass the classes.

Also, where I work, there is so much mandatory overtime for my shift that if I were not in this program, I would miss classes on a weekly basis. This program allows me to be exempt from overtime if it will keep me from going to class, which makes sense, because if I am expected to maintain good grades, I have to be in class to do so. This exemption from overtime sometimes makes my coworkers unhappy with me, but like I always say, "I come and work my eight hours. It is not my fault that the other shifts are so shorthanded."

It is definitely not easy working all night and then driving home one hour and then go to school. I am not doing it because it is fun, I'm doing it because I am so determined to get done with school that I will do anything. I have made a lot of sacrifices and have passed up many things over the past two years due to working nights. But I know that when it is all over with, it will be worth it.

Since I have been married (September 1998), I have worked nights while my husband works days with weekends off. I, on the other hand, work every weekend. It hasn't caused any problems with our relationship and I thank him for being so supportive. I am definitely looking forward to the day when we are on the same schedule.

One other factor that is presently making it harder to work nights and go to school is that I am now six months pregnant. As time goes on I am becoming more and more tired and am requiring more sleep. It is almost over, though.

I only have six weeks of summer school and I think I can make it through that. I only hope that it goes fast so I can finally enjoy all that I have been working for. I know it will all be worth it.

For more information on this program, visit http://www.state.il.us/cms/employee/ump

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