In April, about 200 leaders from central Illinois gathered at the Gateway Building to unveil the “Talent Force 21” initiative. The Talent Force 21 Summit was hosted by Congressman Ray LaHood, Glen Barton of Caterpillar, the City of Peoria, and the Central Illinois Workforce Development Board. This initiative is an outgrowth of the 21st Century Workforce study and subsequent activities of the Central Illinois Workforce Development Board and 21st Century Workforce Task Force.
Over the last year or so, the study, authored by Drs. Richard Judy and Jane Lommel, has received a lot of attention in central Illinois. The study examined the economic, education, and workforce trends of a five-county region of central Illinois and identified at least 10 challenges to prepare our region to compete in a 21st century “knowledge economy.” It also was the catalyst for the Workforce Board and its Task Force to follow-up with a number of presentations and in-depth focus groups to get more feedback from the community.
As a result of these activities, the Workforce Board and its 21st Century Workforce Taskforce decided to move forward and act on the Ten Key Challenges. These include:
- Make central Illinois a “learning community.”
- Reduce dropout rates and raise graduation rates in central Illinois high schools.
- Improve educational outcomes of K-12 education.
- Ensure a proper mix of education and training opportunities, as well as counseling, is available.
- Work with employers and all training providers to ensure a proper mix of training opportunities.
- Focus on the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce pool for central Illinois.
- Reduce barriers to workforce participation for all who want to work.
- Make central Illinois a highly attractive place to live and work.
- Work together for the benefit of the region.
- Make initiatives like Peoria NEXT a success.
Over the last few months, the Task Force unveiled the “Talent Force 21” initiative to effectively implement the Ten Key Challenges. The Task Force recruited 22 community leaders to act as champions. There are at least two champions for each challenge. The champions will spearhead the effort to develop goals, objectives, measures, and community partners for their respective challenge. In some cases, established initiatives are already underway that are effectively addressing some challenges. In other cases, champions will be breaking new ground. Over the next year, the champions will track their progress and report to the Task Force and community.
Next spring the Task Force will reconvene the Talent Force 21 Summit and report back to the community on the progress our champions have made in each challenge area. At that time, we hope to produce the first annual “State of the Workforce Report” to document our community’s efforts in addressing these challenges.
Talent Force 21 is one of the most ambitious efforts of its kind anywhere in the country. It reflects a number of outstanding efforts already underway in this community. It will also take a lot of commitment, effort, and patience to address each of the tremendous challenges that lie ahead for our region. Over the next year, we’ll use this forum to highlight each of the Ten Key Challenges and how our community is addressing them. IBI