Industrial Workforce Pilot Program Underway
The ability to identify steps and take actions to positively impact economic activity is fundamental to the work of development organizations and communities. We at DCEDC believe that our county and surrounding areas have ample room for growth and improvement and have carefully considered strategies to improve our performance.
Most recently, we have come to see how critical our industrial base is to our success. Manufacturing is the largest generator of gross domestic product (GDP) in DeKalb County and is the largest source of jobs that pay above average wages. Industrial companies employ over 10,000 DeKalb County residents.
DeKalb County has a high concentration of employment in several distinct manufacturing business sectors including primary metals, fabricated metal products, machinery, computer and electronic products, plastics and rubber products.
Despite these strengths, we lag behind the state average for industrial tax base, as a percentage of the total tax base. It is clear that if we want to have a positive impact on our area, we need to attract new industry and support the expansion of our existing industries. We believe the single biggest thing we could do to advance that effort is to improve the quality of our workforce as represented by students graduating from our schools.
To test that theory, and after convening two “Industrial Workforce Development for Today and Tomorrow” summit meetings, an action plan has been embraced a by a broad group of people representing education and industry. The purpose of this action plan is to show students what types of industrial careers are available, to teach them the required skills, provide them with workplace experience, and to clarify how qualified and motivated individuals can attain careers in advanced manufacturing and industry that are financially rewarding and satisfy the need for accomplishment.
Educators and industry partners from DeKalb and Ogle Counties, all within the Kishwaukee College District, recommended the creation of a Pilot Program with a full-time Career Development Coordinator to facilitate establishing and conducting career development activities. These activities include including school business presentations, company visits and tours, job shadowing, internships, work study programs and apprenticeships. The hope is that a successful Pilot Program will lead to a robust and sustainable program to move our communities ahead economically.
In support of this plan, the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation resolved to accept private funding for and to administer the Pilot Program. “DCEDC will secure funding for the project so that our partners in education and industry can focus on initiating the program in time for the beginning of the school year this fall,” said Dave Juday, Chairman of IDEAL INDUSTRIES.
At the summit meetings, working committees were established to address the following priorities: Soft Skills, Hard Skills/Basic Skills, Career Paths/Work Place Expectations, Education and Industry Communication/Collaboration, and Marketing Today’s Industrial Opportunities.
Participants in the Industrial Workforce Development Summit Meetings included: DeKalb, Sycamore, Rochelle, Genoa/Kingston Schools and KEC; Kishwaukee College, Waubonsee Community College and Northern Illinois University; a broad base of industry representatives, the DeKalb and Sycamore Chambers of Commerce, the cities of DeKalb and Sycamore; and the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corporation.
The Pilot Program is a key part of an emerging DeKalb/Ogle County Workforce Development Consortium. The group has already collaborated to create Kish CareerLink, an interactive online program connecting employers with students through Kishwaukee College and area schools. Over 50employers have created profiles on the Kish CareerLink website, with 27 active career coaches and 92 work-based learning activities available.
Summit participants are anxious to begin work on the Pilot Program to see how successful it can be. “This is a program without a lot of precedent. It represents an exciting opportunity for industry and educators to impact the future of our students, our companies and our communities,” added Juday.
A steering committee was charged with hiring an Industrial Workforce Coordinator for the Pilot Program in time for the beginning of the school year. After screening candidates and conducting interviews, the Pilot Program Steering Committee selected Gene Fogle for this position. With a career in business, a delight in seeing youth succeed and a fervor for making things go fast, Mr. Fogle in onboard and reaching out to educators and industry. He can be reached at 815-593-0865 or by email at- firstname.lastname@example.org.