HERRIN – Continuing to deliver on his Opportunity Returns pledge to invest in the Southern Illinois workforce, Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced $558,000 to support health care training in the Southern region that will address critical shortages in the local workforce. Local hospitals and clinics currently do not have the necessary talent pool of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to meet demand, and, if these shortages are not addressed, they will only get worse as older workers retire. Through the Governor’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative, nearly 200 additional nurses will enter the workforce. Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Jack Lavin made the announcement today at Herrin Hospital alongside health care and educational leaders from throughout Southern Illinois.
“Nurses fill a vital role in hospitals and clinics across Southern Illinois, and it was alarming to learn how pervasive these shortages are. Through the Critical Skills Shortage Initiative, we’re taking an important step forward towards strengthening the health care industry in the Southern region and across the state,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “With this Opportunity Returns grant, we’re advancing the physical health of the people in this region, as well as the health of the local workforce.”
The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative (CSSI) has been one of Gov. Blagojevich’s top Opportunity Returns priorities, and he recently addressed the important needs facing the health care industry in his State of the State address. The $558,000 workforce investment announced today follows a nearly $160,000 planning grant last year where stakeholders from throughout the region, including the Local Workforce Investment Boards, area employers, economic development professionals, educators and service providers, met to identify industry sectors, and specific occupations within those sectors, where there are current or projected shortages of skilled workers. Last September, Gov. Blagojevich also announced $300,000 to support workforce efforts in the Southern region’s tourism industry. The regional consortium also projected worker shortages in a range of specific fields within the health care industry, and developed an action plan to meet that need. Highlights from the health care action plan include:
Launching a Mentoring Program specifically for nursing students at local community colleges to reduce the student dropout rate and increase the awareness of local nursing opportunities by pairing students with experienced nurses across the area. Mentors will provide support, encouragement and tutoring to students enrolled in nursing courses. Support will be available to cover mileage and daycare costs, with some funding available for tuition and fees at the schools.
Marketing health care careers through a two page, full-color supplement that will appear monthly in the Southern Business Journal (SBJ) that is published by the Southern Illinoisan to showcase local health care providers and the benefits of working within the health care industry in the region rather than driving out-of-state to work. This will also highlight the nursing programs at local colleges, as well as graduates who have chosen to remain employed in the region.
Hiring a Health Care Business Coordinator to oversee all grant activities, monitor progress of meeting projected health care needs, work with the Illinois Hospital Association, coordinate content of Southern Business Journal color supplement, and maintain and establish consortium partnerships. The coordinator will also help identify clinical slots to expand training capacity, highlight workforce best practices, locate equipment that can be donated and promote career awareness among high school students and non-traditional students.
“We’re thankful to have such a strong advocate in Gov. Blagojevich, because the workforce investments that the Critical Skills Shortage Initiative is targeting will bring important new nurses to the region,” said Kathy Lively, Executive Director of MAN-TRA-CON, the local administrator of the CSSI grant.
“Hospitals and clinics can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Gov. Blagojevich is partnering with us to address the nursing shortage in Southern Illinois. This grant is not only helping to recruit new nurses in our region, but advancing the skills of workers so they can achieve success in this critical field,” said Becky Ashton, administrator at Herrin Hospital.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is administering the Southern region’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative (CSSI). Additionally, DCEO administers other workforce programs that might help in fulfilling regional needs including the Employer Training Investment Program and the Eliminate the Digital Divide Program.
“We must make sure that our hospitals, clinics and nursing homes have enough nurses to meet the needs of the health care industry today and for the future. It is through Opportunity Returns that Gov. Blagojevich is meeting that need and preparing for future demands,” said State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton).
“When health care experts are projecting a shortage of nurses, this is a concern that we need to address head-on. I appreciate Gov. Blagojevich’s initiative to meet this important need in Southern Illinois,” State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said.
“Investments in Illinois’ human capital are one of the most important investments that we can make. Gov. Blagojevich is meeting critical needs in the workforce across the state, and providing new training for local health care workers so they can advance their skills and get ahead,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said. “Through Opportunity Returns, Gov. Blagojevich continues to make these investments in the Southern region that is helping to grow the economy and create good jobs today and tomorrow.”
The Southern region includes Alexander, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White and Williamson counties. The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative combines the knowledge and resources of countless partners throughout these nineteen counties, including:
Local Workforce Investment Boards: Workforce Investment Area #25, Southern Illinois Workforce Investment Board, Workforce Investment Area #26 and Southern 14 Workforce Investment Board, Inc.
Health Care Facilities: Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and Herrin Hospital, Hamilton Memorial Hospital District in McLeansboro, Harrisburg Medical Center in Harrisburg, St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, ABS Management Services in Carbondale, Addus Health Care in Marion and Carbondale, VA Medical Center in Marion, Community Health & Emergency Services in Rosiclare, Marshall Browning Hospital in DuQuoin, and St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Murphysboro.
Southern Region Community Colleges: Frontier Community College in Fairfield, John A. Logan College in Carterville, Rend Lake College in Ina, Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg and Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.