Illinois manufacturers attracting young workers

An anticipated resurgence of manufacturing is leading some companies in Illinois to start growing their skilled workforce. One strategy manufacturers and organizations have recently taken up is holding special events to attract teenagers and young adults. A convention in Effingham​, Ill., and an exposition in Peoria, Ill., both aimed to draw young workers into the field.

"We are the most productive nation in the world," said David Boulay, Illinois Manufacturing Excellent Center president at the East Illinois Super Region Roundtable in Effingham. "Manufacturing is vital to our region. Yet we face a time when global competition is at its most intense."

The companies speaking at the event shared both enthusiasm and concern for the anticipated surge in Illinois manufacturing and the shortage of workers that complicates their efforts, Herald Review reported. The East Central Illinois Development Corporation, however, made an attempt to aid the industry by inviting numerous community colleges, companies and agencies for a seminar on manufacturing. Teens were encouraged to pursue education and training that will prepare them for a career in the industry.

According to Boulay, 79 percent of manufacturers in East Central Illinois are not satisfied with the quality and availability of the workforce. Manufacturing recruiters must work hard to fill the skills gap.

A day on the job
One hundred and fifty miles northwest of Effingham, officials at Illinois Valley Plastic in Peoria gave local teens a tour as part of the Discover Manufacturing Career Expo, the Peoria Journal Star reported. The event aimed to show teens that industrial jobs can have more to them than hands-on field work.

"Not everyone is an hourly employee out of a shop," said Nick Scibone of Illinois Valley Plastic. "[W]e have accountants and engineers and HR people, production planners, and buyers."

The third annual installment of the event brought out 1,300 students, which is up from 1,100 last year. Being able to view what modern facilities look like helped students to get over biased perceptions of factories as clanky production lines. Instead, they are coming to see that the industry is more of a technological field now, according to Molly Steffen of Caterpillar.

While special events that cultivate youth interest might be a long-term solution to labor shortages, Illinois companies in need of immediate relief might turn to Chicago staffing services. Industrial recruiters are heavily knowledgeable about the field and can offer help for each step of the recruiting process.