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New programs aim to assist with worker shortage

Monday, July 31, 2017

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By My Journal Courier

The Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation, in conjunction with the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, is aiming to fix one of the biggest gripes businesses have about the city: A worker shortage.

Paul Ellis, director of the JREDC, said that in his interviews with businesses both within and outside of Jacksonville, there seems to be a general consensus that there simply aren’t enough workers with the appropriate skills. This isn’t an issue unique to Jacksonville — Ellis said that most communities he’s talked to have a similar problem.

“In some cases, there’s not in enough people. In all cases, there are not enough people with the right skillset,” Ellis said. “It is a nationwide problem. There’s a shortage in (Los Angeles), there’s a shortage in New York City, when I was in Washington, D.C., there were people from San Diego, from Houston, all of them had a workforce shortage.”

The JREDC and the Jacksonville Chamber looked at communities that had developed strategies to overcome this issue and fell upon Vermillion County in Illinois who were using a “supply chain” method for closing the workplace skills gap. Through this research, Ellis and Chamber President Lisa Musch were invited to become enrolled in a “talent pipeline management” program aimed at replicating this success.

Jacksonville was selected as one of 65 other communities to be part of this pilot program by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The TPM Academy launched in 2014 to help employers play expanded leadership roles in training and to develop new industry partnerships.

Ellis explained that the program works in several ways: By encouraging employers to share definitions of what they’re looking for in particular positions, to help companies work together to identify skill gaps and focus areas, and by working with the community and schools to form programs that can help students learn the skills necessary to become eligible for employment with these companies.

With more defined skill sets, uniformly implemented across multiple employers, and school programs to help students acquire those skill sets, Jacksonville will have an attractive system of producing a larger workforce that attracts businesses.

“I know it’s going to help us with recruiting companies,” Ellis said. “We’re not worse off than other communities, but we do face the challenges that they do. We have the opportunity to get a leg up here.”

This program is being rolled out slowly over the course of the year as Ellis and Musch continue to work through the training necessary to implement the program. However, Ellis said that there are businesses already ready to get on board when the program fully launches.

Another effort being made by the JREDC is a push for marketing. Utilizing online marketing through the organization’s website and social media, Ellis hopes to bring Jacksonville to the forefront of businesses’ minds when selecting a site to build.

One such marketing effort is the I-72 Opportunity Corridor that has been funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Spearheaded by JREDC Chair Shawn Rennecker and made possible by the services of the Golden Shovel Agency, the program is aimed at highlighting the benefits of doing business in the region.

The program’s website, i72corridor.com, has already been launched. Businesses interested in getting involved with the TPM program can contact Ellis at 217-602-8390 or Musch at 217-245-2174.

Nick Draper can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @nick_draper.

Category: Economic Development News, News



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