Workforce in the Rockford Region
The Rockford MSA (which includes Boone and Winnebago Counties) is a thriving area, and the Rockford Area Economic Development Council is dedicated to making the most of our economy through our workforce development programs. The Rockford MSA has an abundant workforce of 176,700 people, and this group has twice the national average of manufacturing employment, along with strong technical and engineering skills and, of course, our great Midwest work ethic. The workforce grows to 453,000 if commutable traffic is included in the figures. All of this combined makes us the perfect location for industrial, automotive, and aerospace site selection.
The Region has established nimble, industry-specific, and customized education-to-workforce pipelines ensuring the region has the skilled workforce essential to fulfilling the requirements of jobs that are good today, tomorrow, and in the future.
This workforce solution is what sets the region apart. We have begun to build the education-to-workforce pipelines needed to support our aerospace, advanced manufacturing, automotive, and healthcare industries.
- Northern Illinois University (NIU) and Rock Valley College (RVC) have partnered to provide a four-year, ABET accredited, mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree program. This program is located on the RVC campus and costs less than $40,000 for all four years. The program provides the curriculum as well as the opportunity for establishing mentorships and internships with businesses located in the Rockford Region.
- Rock Valley College has invested in an Aviation Maintenance Technology Program located at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. This program provides a direct talent supply chain to the AAR maintenance repair and overhaul facility. Each federally-licensed graduate from the program has had 2,000 hours of instruction and is guaranteed an interview with AAR.
- Supporting the expanding healthcare system in the Rockford Region is possible through the Saint Anthony College of Nursing and the U of I Chicago College of Medicine programs. The Saint Anthony College of Nursing offers a four-year nursing degree program located at newly constructed Health Sciences Center on the Rock Valley College campus. The U of I College of Medicine now provides all four-years of coursework on the Rockford Campus.
- Rockford Career College, one of a few options for CNC (computer numerical control) programs. Students in the program learn to set-up and operate a CNC machine as well as programming in a manufacturing environment.
- TechWorks offers the only cold forming education facility of its kind in the U.S.A. TechWorks has partnered with Rock Valley College to provide a 170 (SB180) hour, 8-week Fast-Track skills training that leads to a NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) credential in Metalworking Skills Machining Level 1 Skills Standard.
- There are also apprenticeship programs offered by regional trade unions. Taught by skilled craftsmen, apprentices earn a living wage throughout the education process. When the apprenticeship is complete, workers receive an internationally-recognized trade certification. Depending on the chosen program, apprentices may also earn college credits or an associate’s degree.
The community has collaborated on these program as we differentiate ourselves and ensure the region has the skilled workforce needed to support these jobs that are good today, tomorrow, and in the future. Together we have started down a road many other regions have yet to identify. We have created examples to be proud of and commit to continue to build more successful programs.
By following the 7:2:1 concept in the development of customized education to workforce pipelines students have the skills required to fill positions relevant to the region’s relevant industry clusters. The 7:2:1 ratio breaks down to represent each job requiring a master’s degree or higher, two jobs require a four-year degree, and seven jobs require a 2-year degree, certificate, apprenticeship, or training. These education levels can be represented within one company as well as in the global economy.
Large Concentration of National Engineering Talent
The Rockford area has many advanced manufacturing jobs in a range of industries, making this an area of rapid economic development, especially in the field of engineering. The majority of our engineers are in R&D or sales positions. Engineering jobs make up 1.7% of Rockford MSA’s total employment. This is 31% higher than the national average and 55% greater than the state of Illinois. Machinery manufacturing and R&D is 700% higher than the national average. Our concentration of manufacturing talent also includes:
- 4.2 times the national average Metals Manufacturing and R&D employment – 400% greater
- 3.4 times the national average Transportation Equipment Manufacturing and R&D employment – 300% greater
- 1.5 times above the Illinois average in engineer employment – 50% higher than the US average
Growing Manufacturing Community
Manufacturing is one of the backbones of the American economy, and in our Region, it’s a thriving industry that’s currently seeing a great deal of job growth. Our metropolitan area ranks first in aerospace manufacturing throughout the state, and second in manufacturing employment, “on & off” road vehicle manufacturing, and industrial machine manufacturing.
The Rockford Area Economic Development Council maintains a dedicated commitment to expanding and supporting our workforce. Whether you are in the aerospace, automotive, or manufacturing industry, consider Rockford’s impressive credentials and incentives when you are choosing your new location.