DeWitte Joins Bipartisan Team to Push Workforce Development Bill Package

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) Education Foundation is pushing for the passage of several bills designed to build a workforce of the future by increasing education opportunities and removing barriers that prevent students from exploring jobs in the manufacturing industry.

Nationally, there are nearly 800,000 open jobs in the manufacturing industry, including tens of thousands of available jobs in Illinois. The IMA Education Foundation is dedicated to working with employers, educators, and lawmakers to enact policies that help attract, retain, and grow a skilled workforce. These efforts are vital to ensuring Illinois can continue to experience strong economic growth in the coming decade, as more and more baby boomers are expected to exit the job market and companies will seek to fill the resulting knowledge and experience gaps.

“As manufacturers across Illinois seek to fill open positions, it’s important we work collaboratively with employers, educators, and policymakers to find solutions to our workforce challenges, many of which vary from region to region. This includes creating opportunities for students to learn about manufacturing through career exploration programs, strengthening training opportunities, and providing solutions to other issues that impact employee well-being, such as childcare,” said Sarah Hartwick, Vice President of Education & Workforce Policy and Executive Director of the IMA’s Education Foundation. “We must apply the creativity and innovation our manufacturers display on shop floors to building a skilled workforce that will lead our state forward for generations to come.”

Special emphasis should be placed on building partnerships with employers seeking to fill jobs with educational institutions working with students to build skills, especially younger students just beginning to explore career pathways and those from marginalized communities who face unique hurdles, including criminal records.

“Everybody deserves a chance to build a life they can be proud of, and that starts with learning skills that employers value,” said Rev. Courtney Carson, Assistant Vice President of External Affairs at Richland Community College and IMA Education Foundation Board Member, who oversees the EnRich training program. EnRich is a 10-week program that provides technical and essential skills training to help students facing employment barriers find and keep jobs in the manufacturing industry. “Our program is proof that by working together, educators, businesses and policymakers can make a real difference in our communities.”

A key proposal being backed by the IMA Education Foundation is HB3590, sponsored by Rep. Travis Weaver, R-Edwards, which would remove barriers preventing students from participating in career development experiences. Currently, liability concerns limit the ability of high school and community college students to earn hands-on job training on manufacturing floors.

“The best way to get students excited about a career in manufacturing is to provide hands-on experiences on shop floors where they can learn about this dynamic and well-paying industry,” said Weaver. “Burdensome regulations shouldn’t stand in the way of these important opportunities.”

A bipartisan measure co-sponsored by Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and Rep. Amy Elik, R-Alton, would allow students to take two years of career training education in place of two years of foreign language study (HB3307).

“Students should have the choice to explore their career interests early in their educational journey,” said Stuart. “By identifying areas of interest, they can better tailor their learning experiences for a successful future.”

An additional measure sponsored by Elik would create a pilot program to allow manufacturers to open on-site childcare centers at no cost to their employees. Under HB3308, manufacturers would be required to follow staffing, medication, background check and liability insurance requirements, but would receive an expedited approval process.

“We must explore ways to build career pathways for students and remove barriers that make it difficult to enter the workforce,” said Elik. “I’m proud to partner with the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association on these important issues.”

To further strengthen ties between education institutions and employers, Sen. Don DeWitte, R-St. Charles, and Rep. Suzanne Ness, D-Crystal Lake, are sponsoring SB991/HB 3287 to support the creation of additional licensed career and technical education teachers who also work at manufacturing facilities, and SB992/HB 3286, which would encourage teachers to participate in externships at manufacturing companies to build their knowledge of the industry.

“We cannot underestimate how important it is to foster relationships between manufacturing companies and education institutions to ensure our students learn the skills necessary for a successful career in the industry,” said DeWitte. “As the industry continues to evolve, so must our education standards.”

“To ensure our students learn the skills to be successful in the workplace, our schools must partner with employers to better understand their needs,” said Ness. “These initiatives will build a strong workforce and strengthen our communities for years to come.”  

2023 IMA Education Foundation Legislative Agenda Items

HB 3590: Establishes an advisory committee under the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to make recommendations on removing barriers preventing students from participating in career development experiences. The advisory committee will include representation of several key agencies including the State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, the Department of Insurance and the Illinois Community College Board. The recommendations must include ways the state can establish a system of providing liability insurance for high school and community college students who are working with employers, including on manufacturing floors, during career development experiences.

HB 3307: Allows students to take two years of career training education in place of two years of a foreign language that is currently part of the State’s high school graduation requirements.

HB 3308/SB1450: Creates the Manufacturer Child Care Center Incentive Pilot Program. This pilot program will allow 10 manufacturers to open on-site, employee-only childcare centers at no cost to their employees. The employer is required to follow staffing, medication, background check and liability insurance requirements, but provides an expedited approval process.

HB 3287/SB991: Creates stipends for manufacturing employees who also serve as teachers by providing financial incentives through stipends from ISBE, subject to appropriation, for a manufacturing employee, in the amount of one-half of the salary of the employee that is employed by a manufacturing company and working within a school district as a licensed career and technical education teacher.

HB 3286/SB992: Creates state stipends for teacher externships. Requires ISBE, subject to appropriation, to provide stipends for teachers who participate in externships with a manufacturing company in this State. The externships experience is designed to give teachers the opportunity to spend time outside of the classroom and in manufacturing facilities.

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