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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2006

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH ANNOUNCES $240,000 IN FUNDING TO ADDRESS CRITICAL SHORTAGE OF MANUFACTURING WORKERS IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
Training Program Will Prepare 120 New Workers to Enter the Local Manufacturing Industry

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.

CSSI, which is being replicated by the state of Indiana, has been one of Gov. Blagojevich’s top Opportunity Returns priorities. The CSSI manufacturing program follows the launch of the CSSI health care initiative, which is training 200 additional nurses to pursue careers in better-paying jobs. Gov. Blagojevich provided $558,000 to support the health care training in Southern Illinois that is addressing those critical shortages in the local workforce. An earlier nearly $160,000 planning grant was used by stakeholders from throughout the region, including the Local Workforce Investment Boards, area employers, economic development professionals, educators and service providers, to identify industry sectors, and specific occupations within those sectors, where there are current or projected shortages of skilled workers.

"On behalf of the Southern 14 Workforce Investment Board and the Southern Illinois Workforce Investment Board, I would like to thank Gov. Blagojevich and the Critical Skills Shortage Initiative for giving the Southern Economic Development Region the necessary funding to create a program area manufacturers told us was critical for success. Manufacturers from the 19 county area noted that a ‘work ready’ workforce was crucial to our future in Southern Illinois. Economic prosperity comes to those who are ready. The Southern Economic Development Region pledges to have an excellent workforce of hundreds of ‘work ready’ employees as an essential element to future growth and opportunity in southern Illinois," Kathy Lively, Executive Director, MAN-TRA-CON said.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is administering the Southern region’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative (CSSI).

"By bringing together the region’s stakeholders who work day-in and day-out in the local manufacturing industry, we can craft creative solutions that will make an enormous impact in this community. CSSI is a grassroots initiative to ensure a stronger, better future for working families in Southern Illinois and is a real testament to Gov. Blagojevich’s innovative leadership," DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.

The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative combines the knowledge and resources of countless partners throughout the Southern region, including:

Local Workforce Investment Boards: Southern Illinois Workforce Investment Board, Southern 14 Workforce Investment Board, Inc.

Employer partners: Crownline Boats in West Frankfurt, Aisin in Marion, Maytag in Herrin, General Cable in DuQoin, Circuit City in Marion, MPP Management in DuQuoin, Sun Transformer in McLeansboro, Pepsi MidAmerica in Marion, Airtex Products in Fairfield and Baldwin Manufacturing in McLeansboro.

Educational partners: Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Rend Lake College in Ina, John A. Logan College in Carterville, Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel and Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg.

Other key partners: MAN-TRA-CON Corp.; Department of Rehabilitation, Harrisburg; Ohio & Wabash Valley Regional Vocational System; Illinois Department of Human Services; Center for Rural Health & Social Service Development, SIUC; Greater Egypt Regional Planning & Development Commission; Operating Engineers Local #318; Murphysboro Chamber of Commerce; Laborers Local 773; Regional Office of Education #20 & affiliated schools (Edwards, Gallatin, Hardin, Pope, Saline, Wabash, Wayne, White counties); Wabash Area Development, Inc; Shawnee Development Council, Inc; Mid-5 Employment; Illinois Department of Employment Security; Regional Office of Education #02 & affiliated schools (Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, Union counties); Regional Office of Education #30 & affiliated schools (Jackson/Perry counties); Regional Office of Education #25 & affiliated schools (Hamilton/Jefferson counties); Regional Office of Education #21 & affiliated schools (Franklin/Williamson counties); Mid-South Regional Partnership; Franklin Williamson Human Services; Operation Rebound, Carbondale Community High School; White County Economic Development Group; 5 County Regional Vocational System; Williamson County Regional System; Greater Wabash Regional Planning Commission; Johnson County Economic Development; Office of Economic & Regional Development, SIUC; Benton/West City Economic Development; and Herrin Chamber of Commerce.

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.



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