By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Titan Wheel workers are preparing a new 75,000-square-foot work space to start production early this summer.
"We've had two back-to-back record years here at Titan. As we come into this year, our customers are all looking at a very strong year, which means we're going to have a very strong year," said Dave Salen, president of Titan Wheel.
Salen was not surprised to hear that Illinois employers expect to add jobs in manufacturing and health care this year. ManPower Group's quarterly survey shows that 17 percent of Illinois employers expect to add staff in the next few months. Another 71 percent plan to keep staffing level and 2 percent plan staff cuts.
Over the past year, Illinois' manufacturing job base grew 2.4 percent, from 579,900 jobs in December 2011 to 594,100 last month. One in every 9.7 nonfarming jobs in Illinois is in manufacturing.
"Manufacturing in Illinois is going to always be relatively strong," said Tom Gimbel, CEO of the Chicago-based staffing firm LaSalle Network. "You've got Caterpillar and Deere. ... That's Midwestern products and Midwestern values. It mirrors the types of people that are out there. You've got people that want to have a (steady) job for 30 years."
Salen said Titan has "upwards of 1,000" people working in Quincy in the wheel business. He said the local work ethic is tremendous.
"I've worked all over the United States and all over the world and I'd put these guys up against anybody," Salen said.
New factory jobs typically require a heavy dose of training to deal with an increasingly technical world. Community colleges now offer a wide range of manufacturing-related credentials in anything from logistics to quality control, said Jim Nelson, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.
"Everybody who wants to work in today's manufacturing environment needs some post-secondary education," he said. "The K-12 system does go a long way to preparing students for the world of work, but we now rely so much on robotics, computer-animated systems."
Dave White, who supervises more than 100 employees in Titan's maintenance department, has been working with John Wood Community College and Vatterott College to come up with training programs that prepare students with the skilled trades needed today.
White said maintenance at a manufacturing firm like Titan involves machine operators, tool-and-die makers, electrical, electronic, cooling and other skills. Those skills will be in even greater demand as workers from the baby boomer generation retire from manufacturing jobs.
It's the same way in the health care industry, said Joel Shalowitz, a physician, professor and director of health industry management at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
"We are really entering an era where somebody's going to need a higher level of training -- and not just education, but training," Shalowitz said.
Experts say Illinois' biggest job creator in 2013 could be the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is expected to ratchet up the demand for a wide range of jobs.
Hospitals may need to add staff in positions that require everything from a four-year degree plus experience to entry-level jobs that require little education.
Ron Tallcott, human resources manager at Blessing Hospital, said the Affordable Care Act will require some higher levels of care.
"We're looking at the RN getting a bachelor's degree or even master's for those higher quality measures," Tallcott said.
Blessing Hospital has about 2,200 employees, and because of turnover, Tallcott said the hospital is "hiring constantly" too keep positions filled. Tallcott and his department are tasked with finding the best employees for open positions.
"We're going to be very strategic in making sure we have very educated individuals filling those positions," Tallcott said.
St. John's Hospital in Springfield has been hiring nurse navigators -- experienced registered nurses who help patients literally navigate their way through treatment, answering questions before and after, said Pat Schulz, head of the hospital's human resources department. The pay is $22 to $30 an hour.
The hospital hires about 140 RNs a year for a variety of positions around the hospital, many of the straight out of school, she said. But the new ones don't head straight to the hospital floor on their own, instead spending three to four months in additional training as nurse residents.
Even with reasonably strong job creation, many of the post-recession jobs tend to pay lower wages than jobs lost to the downturn. The median hourly wage in Illinois in 2007 was $15.80, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Adjusted for inflation, that's the equivalent of $17.14 in 2011, the most recent year for which the BLS has data. But the actual hourly wage was $16.95.
A series of recent stories by The Associated Press found a similar trend around the country. Half the 7.5 million U.S. jobs lost to the Great Recession were in industries that pay middle class wages but only 2 percent of the 3.5 million gained back are in such industries. Seventy percent, in fact, are in low-wage businesses. Technology has done away with many jobs.
One area that isn't expected to produce new Illinois jobs this year is government employment because of the state's massive budget deficit pension obligations.
Government employment dropped almost 1 percent in Illinois last year. That's a loss of 7,100 jobs, down to 834,500, according to the state Department of Employment Security.
The Associated Press provided information for this story.
Illinois is like the rest of the nation: still struggling to regain jobs lost during the recession of 2007-09. Statewide unemployment hasn't dropped below 8 percent since 2008, but has been declining slowly from the peak unemployment of 12.3 percent in January 2010. Labor analysts expect continuing job gains this year.
Employment by job type (excluding farm jobs) in Illinois. Data is for December 2012, the most recent month available, and shows the change from December 2011:
Total nonfarm jobs
º 5,717,900 in December 2012
º 5,676,000 in December 2011
º Change: +41,900
º 9,700 in December 2012
º 9,700 in December 2011
º Change: 0
º 182,700 in December 2012
º 191,300 in December 2011
º Change: -8,600
º 593,400 in December 2012
º 576,900 in December 2011
º Change: +16,500
Trade, Transportation, and Utilities
º 1,145,900 in December 2012
º 1,142,200 in December 2011
º Change: +3,700
º 97,900 in December 2012
º 99,800 in December 2011
º Change: -1,900
º 366,200 in December 2012
º 360,500 in December 2011
º Change +5,700
Professional and Business Services
º 859,300 in December 2012
º 838,500 in December 2011
º Change: +20,800
Educational and Health Services
º 865,200 in December 2012
º 857,100 in December 2011
º Change: +8,100
Leisure and Hospitality
º 534,800 in December 2012
º 519,800 in December 2011
º Change: +15,000
º 238,000 in December 2012
º 247,500 in December 2011
º Change: -9,500
º 824,800 in December 2012
º 832,700 in December 2011
º Change: -7,900
Source: Illinois Department of Employment Security