Over the last four years, the Central Illinois Workforce Development Board has taken a leadership role in responding to the challenges that affect the quality, quantity, and economic alignment of a 21st century workforce through its Talent Force 21 initiative. Talent Force 21, one of the most ambitious initiatives of its kind anywhere in the country, is an innovative partnership between the Central Illinois Workforce Board and 80 partner organizations. Talent Force 21 brings together leaders in the fields of workforce and economic development, education, business, labor, and government to address the significant challenges facing our workforce and community in the 21st century knowledge economy.
Talent Force 21 is a strategy and a set of actions that’s an outgrowth of the “21st Century Workforce: Central Illinois” report and subsequent activities of the board. The name “Talent Force” implies something beyond “workforce.” It implies a cultivation and development of human capital. Its theme, “Talent Drives Prosperity,” underscores the assumption that our ultimate success as a community will be in developing our people.
Through Talent Force 21, community leaders have met on a regular basis to develop goals, objectives, and monitor the progress of the workforce challenges facing our community.
Understanding that education is the key to maintaining and growing the region’s economy, the board partnered with Congressman Ray LaHood and the educational community to reduce dropout rates and raise graduation rates; to improve the outcomes of K-12 education; and to ensure the proper mix of education, training, and support services are available to all. Working with business leaders, the board is aligning its human capital to the current and emerging economy, focusing on the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce, and reducing barriers to workforce participation.
Strategic priorities of the board also have included working with all major regional health care providers to address critical skill shortages and a major foundation to upgrade the skills of incumbent health care workers. Other initiatives include partnering with the emerging new biotechnology research and commercialization and regional logistics initiatives. Other activities have included:
• Producing nationally recognized, groundbreaking research reports to educate the community on strategic economic, education, and workforce issues facing central Illinois.
• Working with Peoria Public School Board members, administrators, principals, and teachers to improve educational outcomes; realign the entire educational model for a 21st century knowledge economy; and develop a “Full Service Community School” model for elementary, middle, and high schools.
• Partnering with local Economic Development Council, Chamber of Commerce, Realtor’s Association, and Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to produce a community web portal to better position the region to attract businesses, tourists, home buyers, and talent.
• Partnering with the state and a major foundation to address critical skills shortages in nursing, health care, engineering, and skilled manufacturing.
• Partnering with economic development initiatives in biotechnology research and commercialization and logistics to meet current and projected workforce needs. IBI