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August 24, 1999

Illinois Ranks Fourth Nationally For High-Tech Growth; Workforce Bureau To Oversee $1 Million In High Tech Training

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced that Illinois ranks fourth in the nation for high-tech growth by the American Electronics Association (AEA). The ranking appeared in the August issue of Business Facilities magazine.

To help further Illinois' nationally-recognized reputation for technology, Ryan today announced two new technology-based initiatives: the new Bureau of Workforce Training and Development, and the Illinois Virtual Campus. With the creation of the Bureau of Workforce Training and Development, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs will be able to help train dislocated Illinois workers for jobs in the rapidly growing technology industry. The new bureau has already secured $1 million in federal funding to help train Illinois workers.

Also today, the Illinois' Higher Education community recognized the importance of technology by establishing the Illinois Virtual Campus. The IVC will provide distance learning opportunities through its online catalog of available courses from more than 70 participating public and private colleges and universities in Illinois.

"Technology will be an engine for economic growth in the 21st Century," Ryan said. "This ranking shows that Illinois is on the right track when it comes to meeting the challenges presented by today's global economy."

The AEA based its ranking using information from the US Labor Bureau and Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Research. The AEA looked at such issues as total high-tech employment, high-tech payrolls, number of high-tech workers and high-tech exports when compiling the rankings.

Only California, Florida and Texas fared better than Illinois in the ranking.

Business Facilities reported that "a skilled workforce is a cornerstone of Illinois' technology sector." The magazine also highlighted Governor Ryan's commitment to encouraging technology-related initiatives in Illinois.

The Illinois Virtual Campus, developed by the University of Illinois through a grant from the Board of Higher Education, is an electronic catalog that will, for the first time, list all online courses available. The Illinois Virtual Campus will help expand access to higher education in rural communities, increase convenience for students everywhere, and assist businesses in meeting training needs in workplaces across the state. The unique feature of the Illinois virtual campus - and what distinguishes it from online universities in other states - is the partnerships developed with Illinois' strong community college system which will supply needed student support services.

DCCA's new Bureau of Workforce Training and Development was recently created in an effort to better meet the needs of business and labor by consolidating job training initiatives. The bureau's creation was based on a recommendation of the Governor's Transition Committee on Economic Development.

"The information technology industry is growing so fast that people with the right skills are being snapped up as soon as they complete their training," Ryan said. "By helping people learn these valuable skills, we're preparing them for jobs with a future while making sure this high-growth industry can find the skilled labor it needs in Illinois."

The new bureau will administer the Information Technology Demonstration Grant Program. Federal funds from the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) are being tapped to train dislocated workers in high-growth areas, including computer programming and data processing.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that through the year 2005, an average of 95,000 Information Technology positions will become available every year in a broad array of industries and occupations.

"Because the need for employees with computer expertise cuts across all sectors of the economy, we have to be creative in how we use job training funds," said DCCA Director Pam McDonough. "We also realize that as more Illinois companies move to the forefront of innovation, we need skilled workers who can support the development of new technology."

The grant program was started last year with $630,000 allocated to two programs in DuPage and northern Cook counties. Every worker who completed the training has been placed in jobs with an average wage of $21.21 per hour.

The local service agencies offering the training customize the curriculum to meet the specific needs of individual businesses. In turn, companies requesting training agree to hire the trainees once they complete the coursework. Trainees in the program traditionally possess solid work experience and a strong work ethic.

The newly created Bureau of Workforce Training and Development is also administering other technology training programs for the Ryan Administration. The bureau oversees Technology Enterprise Development programs designed to assist high-tech entrepreneurs and Technology Challenge Grants that will help move innovations from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Additionally, the bureau is helping manufacturers to modernize and become more competitive through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Illinois, which provides consulting services to small and mid-size manufacturers. The bureau's Industrial Training Program partially reimburses businesses for upgrading the skills of new and existing workers.


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