A Publication of WTVP

40 Leaders Under Forty

Kari Rauh | 33

Director of workforce solutions, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council

Kari Rauh
Kari Rauh

“A qualified and available workforce is a region’s most important economic development asset, and Kari’s work to improve our local talent pipeline has been incredible,” said one of her nominators.

With Junior Achievement, she helped the CareerSpark Expo for 8th grade students pivot to a virtual platform during the pandemic, while also implementing a digital system that in its first year connected more than 5,600 high schoolers with local jobs and internships. She also spearheaded the 2021 Hiring Extravaganza in which 129 companies participated and hundreds of people were hired in one day.Meanwhile, with the EDA Good Jobs Challenge Grant Team, she helped secure a $14.6 million federal grant for central Illinois – one of 32 regional winners from an applicant pool of more than 500 — to fund the IT Workforce Accelerator, a partnership between Illinois Central College, Bradley University and Eureka College that will train 1,000 people in critical IT jobs.

Advice: ‘Develop a personal board of directors who can offer advice/wisdom about career, finances, relationships, and more.’

On the community service front, she has been involved with the Partnership for a Healthy Community and its healthy eating initiative; been a group facilitator for Women Doing Well in developing plans for strategic philanthropy; been a facilitator with The Big Table; been active in her church, Metamora Mennonite; and taken part in community development projects across the globe, specifically in Indonesia and Tanzania. 

Childhood ambition: To be “a teacher! I love … helping others develop their potential.”

Advice to 20-year-old self: “Life goes so quickly. Don’t wait to express appreciation for those around you … Develop a personal board of directors who can offer advice/wisdom about career, finances, relationships, and more.”

What no one knows about you: “My first career was in clinical massage therapy with a specialization in lymphatic facilitation and craniosacral therapy (injury treatment and post-operative rehab). I nerd out about all things neuroscience.” 

Bucket list number one: “Write and publish a children’s book.”

Best advice ever: “There’s an affirmation deficit in our world, and people are yearning to know that their lives and work matter. There are always going to be critics; be someone who chooses to see and call out the good.”

Biggest challenge: “A traumatic brain injury I sustained during a car accident in the fall of 2020.”  

Social issues: “Youth mental health and access to education (particularly for young women).”

Favorite causes: “Internationally, World Vision … Locally, Easterseals.”

Recommended book: “The book of Proverbs (Bible, OT). There’s so much practical wisdom there!” 

Local inspiration: Peoria Mayor Rita Ali. She is a powerful champion for diversity, equity and inclusion …” 

Peoria needs: “To … become a ‘Blue Zone’ (a longevity hotspot where a large percentage of the population lives to be over 100).”