The Workforce for the Region’s Future

In the world of business as well as economic development the discussion of education and workforce development is endless. Over the last three and half years, we have seen a shift from tax and monetary incentives to available workforce and the education of that workforce when it comes to business attraction and retention.

The RAEDC is aligned, and partners with organizations such as the Northern Illinois Workforce Alliance (The Workforce Connection), Rockford Public Schools District 205 (RPS 205), Rock Valley College (RVC), Rockford University, Northern Illinois University (NIU), University of Illinois College of Medicine, and other area school districts and higher education institutions.

As one of the voices of the business community, and as a part of our mission to help local businesses expand and grow, the RAEDC partners with these organizations to help them understand what gaps in education, certifications and training there may be and how we can help facilitate a way to get the training we need into the region.

In the manufacturing industry, it is not only educating the potential employees, it is also educating teachers, parents and the public that manufacturing is different than it was many years ago. It is no longer the manufacturing from the early to mid-20th century. Most manufacturing facilities you walk into today are state-of-art buildings that are clean, safe and more technology driven.

In a recent Oxford University study, it is estimated that by 2020 the manufacturing jobs that will be available have not even been created yet. The study also showed that in most manufacturing jobs an engineering degree will be required or at least an engineering technician’s degree.With the evolution of robotics and technology, these jobs have become highly skilled.

New for Our Region 

In the Rockford Region, we have many great advantages to look forward to in the future. This fall, the NIU/RVC School of Engineering will begin classes. This will enable individuals to obtain a four-year engineering degree right here in Rockford at a more affordable cost. The new OSF School of Nursing is expanding and growing at RVC with its new building and will help build the talent pipeline for our rapidly growing healthcare industry. The partnership between SwedishAmerican and Rockford University’s nursing program continues to grow stronger every year.

RPS 205 just approved a new master’s degree program for their teachers; allowing them to earn a master’s in education while working for the school district. And the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford for the first time will have first-year residents here in Rockford, and that is just one of many new exciting programs they are working on, along with an expansion that will take place at the college. We are definitely headed in the right direction with the Career and College Readiness Academy programs in the high schools, helping to guide students to a college or career pathway. Significant improvement is being recorded every year in RPS 205 at all grade levels.

All of the programs mentioned above, which is in no way an exhaustive list, help us as a community to keep the talent we have here in our community. There are many programs that we, as business leaders and individuals, can do to help in growing our own talent pipeline. Volunteer in the high schools, have your business offer job shadowing to students, as well as teachers. Invite a student’s parents into your manufacturing facility to learn and understand the manufacturing of today, or offer internships to high school and college students.

Participate with the NIU/RVC engineering program by providing opportunities for internships. As a Region of Opportunity, we have many businesses growing and creating more jobs. As we grow and technology advances, relevant education becomes more vital to our long-term workforce development efforts; efforts that require partnerships on all levels, public, private and all educational organizations.


by Stacy Bernardi, VP for Development

Also published in The Voice.