For national manufacturing day State Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) gathered together state and local manufacturing representatives to promote workforce development and Illinois’ manufacturing economy.
Rep. Mazzochi’s ‘Made in Illinois’ Roundtable discussed the impact Illinois’ manufacturers have on the state economy, the challenges manufacturers are facing, and the resources available for those looking for a career in manufacturing.
The roundtable featured top representatives from the Illinois Manufacturing Association (IMA) including Donovan Griffith, the Director of Government Affairs, and Jim Nelson, Vice President of Education & Workforce Policy. During the discussion IMA expressed that holding back the state’s manufacturing growth is the lack of reliability and predictability related to Illinois’ budget, taxes, and pensions. In addition, current Illinois manufacturers are struggling to find skilled labor in the workforce.
Rep. Mazzochi was recently recognized by the IMA for her voting and legislative record in support of job creators and small business owners. In May, recognizing that manufacturing essential supplies in country as opposed to internationally is vital, especially in the midst of a pandemic, Rep. Mazzochi filed House Bill 5788 to entice critical manufacturing back from overseas and to Illinois.
“With Illinois facing over 11% unemployment, and businesses and residents fleeing to other states, we absolutely must pay attention to our manufacturing sector, and ways to keep it here,” Rep. Mazzochi explained. “Every nation with a healthy middle class has a strong manufacturing sector. In Illinois, advanced manufacturing translates into good jobs, union jobs, as well as all of the support teams surrounding them.” Mazzochi also noted that one of Illinois’ natural advantages it had over the years—a skilled workforce—has not translated into applicants for manufacturing positions. “The raw, single-minded focus on a 4-year degree over the past few decades has resulted in a serious skills gap and left quality, good paying jobs unfilled. We need to change the conversation and that begins with open roundtables like this.” Roundtable contributor, Ray Doogan, local plant manager for global manufacturing company Ingredion, echoed these same concerns.
“People have an outdated image of manufacturing and today’s manufacturers are facing challenges in the acquisition of talent,” Rep. Mazzochi continued. “While I was on the board at the College of DuPage, we started Project Hire-Ed to ensure our community colleges were helping to address the skills gap and connect students with businesses to help them learn practical, applicable knowledge without massive debt.”
Rounding out the discussion, Danielle Kuglin Seago, the current Project Hire-Ed manager, discussed the opportunities available to those who are interested in a career in manufacturing and how to make it happen, and emphasized the successes both students and employers have found through the program. She and Ray Doogan discussed what employers are looking for and what an investment apprenticeship programs can be.