It’s a common refrain. There are available jobs in Macon County, but employers are having a hard time finding workers with the skills to fill them.
Part of the problem stems from the positive fact that the unemployment rate in the county continues to drop, thus limiting the worker pool. While others, still concerned about what the future might hold, are reluctant to leave a steady job where they have some security for fear they will be the first to be cut at the new job if the economy starts to tank.
You can’t do much about those factors. But thanks to a $1.5 million state grant announced this week, something can be done to prepare those without jobs or those ready to make the move into a better situation get the skills they need to make it happen.
“You have very complicated, open jobs today that require a very specific skill set. We know that companies struggle to find qualified workers, and we know that workers struggle to obtain the training and skills they need to be placed in good-paying jobs,” state Sen. Andy Manar said during the grant announcement Monday. “This grant will help bridge the gap.”
Funding for the Richland Community College Workforce Development Grant was included in this year’s state budget. The money will allow Richland’s newest initiative, the EnRich program, to fast-track technical training to grow the area’s workforce and add to the skills of those who are already part of it.
It’s anticipated the grant will connect as many as 225 people with jobs in the Decatur area.
There are two things about Monday’s announcement that stand out in our minds.
First, the proposal evolved after local stakeholders came together to identify local challenges and a method for addressing them. Richland is partnering with the Economic Development Corp. of Decatur and Macon County, the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Manufacturing Association, skilled trade locals, and local businesses and industries.
This unified response isn’t something new. Richland already has a track record for working with local industry to address their employment needs, so the state grant can immediately be put to work. No time will be lost, and money spent, getting things up and going.
This immediate flexibility to address the needs of local employers is what make Richland such a valuable cog in Macon County’s economic success.
Second, we are encouraged the state has deemed this community’s commitment and need worthy of the grant. We have written in this spot many times how the state needs to provide financial help to programs with a proven track record and allow the people who are in the best position to facilitate the change to work their magic.
There are no losers in this scenario. Local employers get the workers they need. Those without work get jobs and those looking to advance gain the skills they need to do so. Macon County improves the state of its worker pool, assisting with the expansion of existing businesses and the attraction of new ones. And the state benefits from the people being taken off the unemployment rolls, additional income from those making more money and spending it on local services, and investments from new and existing businesses.