SYCAMORE – Local leaders stressed the importance of getting young people interested in manufacturing jobs during a round-table discussion Friday led by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
The forum was part of a series hosted by Kinzinger, R-Channahon, throughout the 16th Congressional District focused on finding ways to improve the manufacturing climate across the country. The 16th District includes most of DeKalb County, including the cities of DeKalb and Genoa.
"We all know Illinois has a challenging environment," Kinzinger told the small crowd at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau in Sycamore. "I'm concerned with what I see coming out of Springfield, but we have every piece of the puzzle we need to be successful."
The majority of those in attendance, which included local manufacturers, business leaders and school officials, expressed the ongoing need for cooperation between schools and businesses to replenish a workforce that can last for years.
"Students go by these buildings and have no idea what's going on inside," said Gene Fogle, industrial workforce coordinator at the DeKalb-Ogle Workforce Development Consortium. "We have to identify these people and get them interested in starting a good career."
The consortium recently finished the first year of the Industrial Workforce Coordination Pilot Program, which is designed to show students what type of industrial and manufacturing careers are available and provide them with the required skills and workplace experience needed to land a job.
"A lot of people may get the education and skills, but don't have the practical experience of actually doing it," said Rachel Untz, director of human resources at Nippon Sharyo Manufacturing in Rochelle. "Smaller businesses are focused on today. Larger ones are focused on improving the workforce. The issue is breaking down the barriers between education and manufacturers."
Attendees called on their local representative to help.
"As a community we need to step up, and you need to get after it, solve problems, and solve them in a big way," said Dave Juday, former chairman at Ideal Industries in Sycamore. "Cooperation is emerging, and it's exciting."
"Republicans need to put things on the table, Democrats need to put things on the table, and we need to jump off this bridge together," he said. "The government needs to take resources and match people to these careers."