Finding Workers To Fill Job Openings Is The Challenge For Champaign-Urbana Employers

Congressmen Rodney Davis and John Shimkus pose with Farnsworth Group executives Greg Cook & Matt Davidson.

From L to R: US Rep. Rodney Davis, Farnsworth Group Sr. Engineering Manager Greg Cook and Business Development Manager Matt Davidson, and US Rep. John Shimkus pose together at the company's Champaign office, which hosted a discussion on workforce development on Friday.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The economy is booming and unemployment is below five percent. And employers now find that they have difficulty in finding people to fill job openings. That was the message two Illinois Congressmen heard Friday at a meeting in Champaign on workforce development issues.

The closed-door meeting was attended by employers, educators, local mayors including Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin, State Rep. Carol Ammons and Champaign County Chamber of Commerce officials, and was held in the Champaign offices of the Farnsworth Group, a Bloomington-based engineering and architectural firm.

Congressmen John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) and Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) say the message about a shortage of ready labor is one they’ve heard throughout their districts. They say employers tell them about having trouble finding ready, qualified workers, especially for manufacturing jobs.

Davis says he and Shimkus are working to find ways to invest in job training and education to help both employers and employees.

“We want to pair up skills opportunities and training programs and apprentice programs with those who need help and who may have been left behind by this economic growth, so that we can then pair them up with jobs that we know are available.”

Congressman Shimkus voiced his dismay about stories from employers about poorly motivated job trainees.

“A company wants ten people they’re trying to hire”, said Shimkus. “They get ten names. When they start the training, only five show up. And then, when they start to work, three show up for the actual work day, and one leaves in the middle of the day. What’s happened to us as a society, where we don’t value work?”

Shimkus said participants at the meeting discussed whether the social safety net made it easy for people to walk away from job opportunities. But he said another problem might be that factory work is regarded as dirty, dangerous and low-paying.

Both Shimkus and Davis said that they want to get the word out that manufacturing has changed in the last generation, with new technology bringing safer, cleaner conditions, and more opportunities for advancement and better pay.  

 “If you want a job today, you can find one”, said Shimkus. “And if you can’t, there are people to help you get one. There should be no one in my district that says, I’m looking, I can’t find a job.”

Story source: WILL