The manufacturing jobs of today require skills that some job seekers just don’t possess.
That doesn’t mean that situation can’t be changed, though.
The future of manufacturing jobs in DuPage County was the focus of a meeting of the DuPage United Delegate Assembly recently.
The group met at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn to present information to the public about employment in the next decade.
United member organizations, along with manufacturers, educators and county officials spoke about the need to find, train, and place skilled manufacturing workers that will be needed to fill an estimated 12,500 vacancies that will occur in the county within the next 10 years due to retirements.
Lead organizer of DuPage United Amy Lawless Ayala said County Board Chairman Dan Cronin has supported the formation of a new, not-for-profit corporation to recruit, assess, and direct people toward training for highly technical jobs in manufacturing.
“It is being called Career Connect Metro West and this is the component that has been missing in terms of implementing this program,” Ayala said. “Last November, Cronin promised money would be allocated in the budget and this April or May we expect to find out more specific information about those funds. But we need to get the message out that these are high paying, quality jobs and dispel the myth that manufacturing is just dirty work.”
Ayala added that about a third of the existing jobs remain unfilled and that a three-step process is now in place to address the components needed to fill current and existing vacancies.
“The Career Connect Metro West will be charged with finding people from within a large pool that are qualified, and the Jane Addams Resource Corporation will offer training at no cost at the DuPage Technology Center campus,” she said. “The third component is to place these people, which will be handled by Alliance of Illinois Manufacturing, who have agreed to provide graduates with placement expertise.”
The event drew an estimated 200 people. Greg Kaplan, founder and president of K&C Machining Inc. in Wood Dale, confirmed that vacancies at manufacturing companies do exist and that the county initiative “is very much needed in order to fill jobs.”
“This is a very important initiative which is why I volunteered to be on the board,” Kaplan said. “Historically, this has made no sense. I post jobs in the paper and get absolutely no response. We’ve had to jump hurdles to get people until we found (Jane Addams Resourse Corporation), who found for us probably the best employee we’ve had in years. The big problem is publicity. We need to work back into the high schools and let people know there are good paying jobs with great benefit packages.”
Guy Loudon, executive director of the Jane Addams Resource Corporation, told the audience that a joint study done by the Deloitte Firm and the Manufacturing Institute back in 2012 found that there were 30,000 unfulfilled manufacturing jobs with many in the Chicago sector “including pockets in DuPage County.”
“There is high unemployment in some of these areas and we know that there exist opportunities for employers as well as opportunities for low-income workers,” Loudon said. “We’ve had some great success in the past year and we’re excited about this partnership.”
J.R. McBride of Glen Ellyn, who sits on the County Board, said he “heard some good things about the group” and wanted to stop by.
“I have a neighbor who is out of town right now and he’s interested in manufacturing,” McBride said. I’m going to tell him about this when he gets home. There are some good people working on this here.”
Josh Voigts of Lombard said he was looking “for a way to get involved in the community somehow” more than future employment.
“I wanted to see what is going on and hopefully get involved,” he said.