A Publication of WTVP

In December, the governor came to Peoria to announce a number of regional economic and workforce development initiatives. Included in his announcement was a new initiative administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. As a result, leaders from central Illinois have been working to identify current and future economic trends and possible occupational shortages that may adversely impact the growth of the regional economy.

The regional initiative involves a 10-county area. Four local workforce boards have taken a leadership role to coordinate the planning phase of this Critical Skills Shortage Initiative (CSSI). Stakeholders within the region include economic development, education, employers of key industry sectors, organized labor, business and industry associations, training agencies, workforce development, and community-based organizations.

The primary objectives of the CSSI include identifying the skills and/or occupations in short supply now or later in the decade, identifying the root causes of those shortages, and developing action plans to address the root causes. The ultimate goal of CSSI is to align regional workforce programs to provide a reliable supply of qualified workers for critical skill shortage occupations. Current planning activities include identifying major industry sectors, specific industries, and employer groups critical to the regional economy and/or being targeted by economic developers. These activities also include researching regional labor market projections and validating these trends with interviews and focus groups of industry leaders and key stakeholders.

Initial research identified the regional economy will produce a net growth of between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs by the end of the decade. About 70 percent of this net job growth will be in the services sector. The service sector contains a wide spectrum of occupations-from entry-level jobs to professional positions requiring extensive training and education. Within this services sector, several major industry clusters offer career opportunities with higher wage professional occupations. These include health services and biotechnology; educational services; and engineering, accounting, and management services.

Changing technology and demographics are having a profound impact on the health care industry. As the Baby Boomer segment of our population reaches retirement age over the next two decades, the need for increased health care services will continue to challenge our society. Rising health care costs and the availability of these services will also have a profound economic and political impact on our society for the foreseeable future. A related demographic challenge will be in the increasing number of retirements from all segments of the workforce, including health care. Currently, health care workforce shortages are appearing all over the country, and regional projections indicate shortages in a number of occupations within health care will emerge over the next decade.

Nursing will account for a substantial number of shortages within the health care industry. As educational requirements increase for the profession, RNs are in demand in virtually all types of health care facilities. Ironically, as the need for more nurses continues to emerge, education and training institutions will need to increase the number of graduates. Currently, however, these institutions are having a hard time recruiting adequate numbers of nursing instructors, who, in most cases, require master's degrees.

We will also continue to explore this topic of the shortage of qualified workers and the impact on the future of our local economic transition into the 21st century knowledge economy. IBI