Since 2009, America has been digging out of the “Great Recession,” and communities across the country have been slowly adding jobs back to their local economies. At the height of the recession, the unemployment rate in central Illinois was about 13 percent, translating to over 26,000 unemployed workers. This economic phenomenon masked an ominous trend that has been developing for decades and is now manifesting itself on a widening scale.
While the recession created a temporary talent surplus, as it begins to recede, the reality of short- and long-term talent shortages in key economic growth sectors has emerged. Today, our unemployment rate is about half that of 2009, at 7.1 percent—still unacceptably high—but the workforce trends predicted 10 years ago are becoming more apparent.
About a decade ago, the Central Illinois Workforce Development Board embarked on a groundbreaking research project known as 21st Century Workforce: Central Illinois. The study examined the qualitative, quantitative and economic alignment challenges facing the five-county (Peoria MSA) regional workforce and economy. As a result of global economic forces, demographic trends and educational shortfalls, the study predicted uneven talent distribution, increasing talent shortages and talent mismatches beginning in the current decade. In short, this means there will be more workers for decreasing numbers of low-skilled jobs and fewer workers for an increasing number of high-skilled jobs.
As a result, we are now seeing a number of employers in economic growth sectors like healthcare and skilled manufacturing experiencing real problems recruiting qualified candidates for current and projected job openings. In addition, the projected economic growth sectors and jobs of the future will require higher skills and education than those being eliminated. Another challenge emerges as we have increasing numbers of entrant, dislocated and transitional workers with educational preparation and skillsets incompatible to these new growth industries.
To address these challenges, central Illinois will have to create talent acquisition strategies for emerging growth sectors and their specific industries, and talent development strategies for growing segments of our population.
New tools will be necessary to meet these challenges. Existing tools include: 1) the Workforce Investment Act system, including the one-stop system of career services for individuals, business services and worker training programs; and 2) the Workforce Development system, including research and development capacity, strategic initiatives, sectorial initiatives and customized business services. Future tools must include advanced sectorial initiatives focusing on human capital development, including industry sector planning, workforce gap analysis and talent pipeline development.
In order to meet these challenges, communities will need to develop creative new strategies to marshal the resources of both the public and private sectors to evolve their economic and workforce development systems, and produce the talent necessary for the 21stcentury economic rowth sectors. iBi