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January 31, 2006
Posted online February 9, 2006

Funding to address critical shortage of manufacturing workers in southern Illinois


CHICAGO – Continuing his efforts to ensure that the employers throughout Illinois have the workforce they need both today and in the future, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today provided $240,000 in Opportunity Returns funding to help meet projected shortages in the manufacturing and transportation and logistics sectors in Southern Illinois. Over the next five years, the Southern region is expected to face annual shortages in these key sectors, which, if left unfilled, will present major challenges to the region's economic vitality. The Governor's Critical Skills Shortage Initiative is designed to address this challenge head-on by placing business and labor leaders together with other local stakeholders to craft strategic regional solutions that ensure a pipeline of skilled workers. As a result of this investment, an additional 120 workers will be trained to enter the local workforce in these sectors.

"When it comes to economic development, the most important investment we can make is in our workforce. The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative is training hardworking men and women to take advantage of great career opportunities, while it also helps ensure that the manufacturing industry remains strong and viable in our global economy. By bringing the people who know and understand this region the best together to craft an innovative solution to a pressing local challenge, we're creating more good jobs while continuing to expand opportunity in our workforce. That means a more vibrant economy, as well as a better quality of life for working families in Southern Illinois," Gov. Blagojevich said.

While workforce shortages will impact a wide range of industry sectors, including material handling, administrative support, machinery maintenance, and transportation maintenance, the most immediate and critical manpower shortage facing the Southern regional economy is front-line production workers.

To directly target this shortage, the Southern Economic Development Region Consortium will receive $240,000 to implement the Work Certified Training Program, a short-term training and credentialing program designed to provide employers with the front-line production workers of the future. The Work Certified Program establishes skill benchmarks, set and adopted by employers, which equip individuals to succeed in the workplace. The program will be delivered through a partnership of manufacturing employers, six community colleges and One-Stop Centers located throughout the region that will produce 120 skilled workers.

Southern Illinois manufacturers that face shortages of skilled workers and are likely to benefit greatly from this innovative training program include Aisin, Pepsi Mid America, MPP Management and Continental Tire. In addition to other local manufacturers, each of these four companies were members of an employer consortia, which made up an integral component of the diverse CSSI partnership.

"Gov. Blagojevich's Opportunity Returns strategy is about meeting the needs of business, while providing workers the means to reach their full professional potential. Through the Critical Skills Shortage Initiative, we're making important strides at achieving both goals," State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) said.

"An important aspect of strengthening the economic future of Southern Illinois is to help provide our workers with the training they need to meet the demands of their fields and the challenges in our region," State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) said. "I want to thank the Governor for awarding needed funding for this program, which is aimed at helping workers develop the skills and expertise needed to move Southern Illinois forward."

"Gov. Blagojevich and I believe that the foundation of economic development lies in education and workforce training. The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative is an innovative training program that will create more good jobs in professions that are critical to the vitality of our local economy. The Governor continues to make the kinds of investments that matter most to this community," State Rep. Kurt Granberg (D-Centralia) said.

"I want to thank the Governor for awarding this needed funding through the Critical Skills Shortage Initiative," State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said. "Economic development is key to the future of our region, and this program helps business and labor work together to meet workforce demand."

Manufacturing is one of the pillars on which the Illinois economy was built, and remains critical to the state's economic vitality today. There is a new manufacturing industry emerging that is driven by innovation and advancements in technology, budding with well-paying job opportunities, and as vital to keeping the wheels of economic growth in motion in Illinois today as ever before.

Yet the Southern Illinois regional economy is facing serious short-term and long-term shortages of skilled workers because of three interrelated factors:

There is a skill gap between worker supply and industry demand. While Illinois is transitioning to higher value-added, advanced manufacturing jobs that require higher skills, it doesn't currently have the needed people to fill these positions.

Illinois manufacturers are creating new jobs at a faster rate than it can fill them. Many employers are very competitive and growing at an aggressive rate, but have a real shortage of skilled workers to meet the increased demand they are experiencing.

Finally, Illinois' manufacturing workforce is aging and will soon need to replace large numbers of retiring skilled workers.

© 2005 The Cairo Gate