U.S. Rep. Bill Foster launched economic growth initiative “Project Growth”

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., launched an initiative to focus on job and economic growth in Illinois, "Project Growth," in April, according to the congressman's office. He officially introduced the project during a panel discussion in Joliet, Ill., where he stated the project looks at four key issues involved in economic growth: transportation, education, manufacturing and strengthening the middle class.

Foster wants to push the state and federal government to invest in transportation and infrastructure by completing the Illiana Highway and putting money into public transportation systems. He believes the government and local communities can improve education by building partnerships between schools and the business community and Illinois can strengthen the middle class by increasing the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits.

Foster also wants to close the skills gap between workers and the available manufacturing jobs. Much of the discussion at the Joliet panel centered around this issue, according to Progress Illinois.

"It's a tragedy when a worker is staying home unemployed and the business manager is frustrated that their business is not growing because they haven't discovered each other or the worker hasn't taken the training," the congressman stated.

For example, Nanophase Technologies is based in Romeoville, Ill., and wants to hire more engineers but the company is having a difficult time finding qualified workers, Progress Illinois reported.

Pactiv, a food and drink packaging manufacturer in Bolingbrook, Ill., is also in need of workers and many candidates entering the workforce may be unaware of the wide range of opportunities available in the manufacturing industry, according to Progress Illinois.

Businesses looking for skilled workers should partner with manufacturing and engineering recruiters to overcome the gap between qualified candidates and the companies. Recruiters can bridge the gap to benefit the businesses, workers and communities.