ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A strong economy can be a double-edged sword for companies. Business may be booming, but there’s a worker shortage.

Maybe more accurately a skills shortage.

Company executives and managers come together to learn about local efforts to find a solution.

“Inside manufacturing to help bridge the gap in what you might be seeing with the talent that’s coming through the door as well as how we can start bridging that gap as a community,” said RAEDC President & CEO, Nathan Bryant.

Business leaders believe bridging that gap begins with what are called middle skills.

Those don’t require a college degree, but do require some sort of training or certification outside of high school.

Rockford is in an unique position to solve this shortage.

“A lot of it is because of the businesses we have here as well as the legacy information that we have here and the talent that we have in this community,” said Rock Valley College President, Dr. Doug Jensen. “So we’re kind of blessed with this robust manufacturing sector but if we don’t take care of that like any asset, it will go away.”

To make sure it doesn’t go away the college had partnered with the business community.

They’ve come up with what are called “critical core manufacturing skills.”

“What are those prerequisite skills. What are those foundational skills that are needed that will prepare people to move into the middle skills area that will address our talent shortage,” said Jensen.

Dealing with that deficit and getting potential workers up to speed could be crucial for businesses to continue to grow and expand. There’s a two-tiered focus.

“We have to make sure that the people have the middle skills to advance their careers in manufacturing or advance their careers in logistics or supply chain, but what happens to those individuals that maybe don’t have the fundamental skill-sets,” said Jensen. “They’re in another sector or maybe they’re an incumbent worker.”

RVC is developing the curriculum to be flexible to meet potential students’ needs, with a mix of credit and non-credit courses.

Supporters say getting workers this training could have a long-term effect on our area.

Supporters say getting workers this training could have a long-term effect on our area.

“To either retain businesses that are here or to attract new businesses to come to our area because we will have the talent to make manufacturing and make our high priority occupations successful,” Jensen said.

The group is also working closely with local school districts to make sure students have some of these skills completed by high school graduation.


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