ILLINOIS manufacturers say they will have at least 27,000 quality jobs available each year for the next five years.
What they need now are enough workers with the skills to fill those jobs.
Jim Nelson, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, last week was echoing a call for willing, well-trained workers to replace a huge cohort of experienced workers now nearing retirement. "Manufacturers need 22,000 production workers and 5,000 engineers every year, for the next five years ... just to cover retirements of the baby boomers," Nelson told the Illinois News Network.
For employers, this is a looming problem. For job seekers, it is a tremendous opportunity.
Quincy area educators, manufacturers and economic development officials have been sounding the alarm and doing their best to prepare for the generational jobs shift for several years.
John Wood Community College, the Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center and the West-Central Illinois Region Education for Employment System are among institutions that have been collaborating with local businesses to tailor training programs.
Several employers have started programs that repay workers who pass courses that are needed for higher-skill jobs. Manufacturers from Illinois, Missouri and Iowa will be gathering at JWCC for the Tri-State Manufacturing conference Wednesday to learn more about recruiting skilled workers.
The Great River Economic Development Foundation has helped with an annual Manufacturing Expo so that high school students can see what modern manufacturing in action.
"We encourage our students to look at manufacturing as a career and not just a job," GREDF President Marcel Wagner Jr. told The Herald-Whig.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are more than 5,100 manufacturing jobs in Adams County, with average annual wages of more than $50,000. Some jobs involve computers, robotic devices, 3-D printers and other high-tech devices. But employers also need welders, craftsmen, drivers, supervisors and many other professionals. Jobs are available now, and more jobs will need to be filled for years to come.
Workers who are willing to upgrade their skills should check out the training programs being offered locally. Students who are open to vocational training or apprenticeships should contact GREDF, which can get interested people plugged into the right programs.
It's worth a little extra work to land that quality job.