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A Publication of WTVP

The future will be different for tomorrow’s workforce. For many people in today’s working generation, a career could be defined as 30 years of dedicated work for a corporation or large company. There was comfort in knowing you could stay with the same company for as long as you wished.

For today’s young professionals, however, and the generation in development right now in our local schools, a career is something entirely different. Our third graders will move five to seven times in their life. They’ll have more than seven careers in four industries-one of which hasn’t been invented yet. In fact, 85 percent of growth will take place in companies of 15 to 50 employees. Indeed, the landscape is very different in tomorrow’s workplace.

It’s here that economic development and workforce development hit home. It’s here that workforce development issues are relevant beyond the human resources and employment arenas. This is where these issues come to life for the general public, from the bus stop to the dinner table. Where will our children work?

Families want to think about their children growing up and being able to find a career without having to move far away. In today’s economy, however, parents can’t assume a stable job in a stable company that provides sustainable financial security will be waiting for their child upon graduation. This realization has initiated an ideological shift in mainstream central Illinois.

There are other variables feeding the momentum behind entrepreneurialism in central Illinois. The more risk-averse characteristics traditionally associated with the Midwestern culture are giving way to the potential that exists in capitalizing on another characteristic associated with the Midwest work ethic-ingenuity. The Midwest worker is known for getting things done, for finding a way. This inventive and resourceful persona contributes to the natural tendency entrepreneurialism was built on, the drive to build a better mousetrap.

It’s with these natural characteristics and the understanding of the dynamic landscape of tomorrow’s workforce that we’ve joined the Knowledge Economy. Proof of the fact that central Illinois has joined the race is the ever-increasing number of people showing up at the monthly NEXT Steps meetings. Sponsored by the EDC, HITEC, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship, and ARCH Development Partners, NEXT Steps provides informal networking between entrepreneurs (and aspiring entrepreneurs), investors, and others interested in nurturing entrepreneurship in Peoria. Typically, two or three technology companies present their business plans to the audience. All meetings take place from 9 to 11 a.m., the third Tuesday of each month.

For a region of this size, our NEXT Steps meeting is quite impressive-similar meetings take place in Kalamazoo, Chicago, and Cincinnati. However, the energy and discussion generated at our local meeting compares quite favorably with the energy level at other similar events. The value of these events extends beyond providing a venue for individual start-ups to present their technologies. These forums generate an understanding and acceptance of the entrepreneurial culture.

As start-ups and new ventures continue to increase in number and quality throughout central Illinois, they’ll be met with increasing acceptance and encouragement. The facilitation system is being established through the collaboration of the EDC, Peoria NEXT and its partners, and HITEC.

The popularity of this event is testament to the fact that the curiosity and intrigue of entrepreneurialism is alive in central Illinois. The tri-county region’s entrance into the economy of entrepreneurialism hasn’t been seamless, and there are still great strides to be made, but the foundations have been laid and the proper events set into motion. It’s time to understand and embrace entrepreneurship in the workplace, in the classrooms, and in the homes. Although the entrepreneurial culture might be most intuitive in the workplace, it’s in the home that it will count the most in the end. IBI

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