A Publication of WTVP

Recently, the Central Illinois Workforce Development Board unveiled its Talent Force 21 initiative. This initiative represents the next step in our region's efforts to actively shape our future and prepare to compete and prosper in the 21st century knowledge economy.

Over the last few years, it's become apparent the central Illinois economy has undergone real changes. We've seen hundreds of manufacturing and other workers laid off, and dozens of businesses close, downsize, or relocate. Some of this is obviously due to a cyclical downturn in the economy that's affected the entire country. However, much of it may represent a structural shift in the nature of the economy.

Communities that have had a major reliance on manufacturing are beginning to experience the adverse impacts of this shift. This new economy also will bring a number of new challenges for the businesses and workers of our region. Businesses and workers will face a dynamic and rapidly changing economy being shaped by emerging new technologies, the increasing pace of business, projected worker shortages, and changing demographics.

Growing up in the 20th century, all of us are familiar with the impact of technology in our lives and in the workplace. In the 21st century, this pace of technology will continue to impact us at an increasingly faster pace. This rapid pace of technological change will have a direct impact on business processes. As we've all witnessed, to remain competitive, businesses will have to continue to incorporate new technologies and adapt their business processes. These business processes also will be impacted by the pace of knowledge and information.

The amount of information is also growing geometrically. Currently, our technical knowledge becomes obsolete within five years. As the pace of information continues to increase, this knowledge obsolescence cycle will continue to contract. To adequately function in this type of environment, people will need a good education and a set of technical skills. More importantly, they'll have to know how to learn. They'll also need increased analytic, communication, customer service, and teaming skills.

As a result of these new realities, businesses will need to have people that can adapt to the new technologies, business processes, and the pace of constant change. People will have to be capable of constant change in the work environment. They'll also have to constantly sharpen and renew their skills and abilities. Every business owner, manager, or worker will have to embrace the concept of lifelong learning to survive in this new environment.

To grow and prosper in the 21st century, communities also will have to transform themselves into learning communities. The principles of lifelong learning will have to become the 'culture' of the community, its families, and residents. This principle represents the overarching challenge of Talent Force 21.

The name Talent Force also implies something beyond a work force. It implies a cultivation and development of potential assets, a refinement of human potential, and a development of human capital.  The theme Talent Drives Prosperity also underscores the assumption that our ultimate success as a community will be in developing our people. IBI