Illinois could face shortage of qualified workers in five years

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois could be short 150,000 qualified workers by 2020, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report, by the business policy group ReadyNation, says Illinois lags behind Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri in terms of the number of qualified workers for open positions.
Sean Noble, state director of ReadyNation, said Illinois is falling behind in basic skills for workers, and he called for an increase in funding for early childhood education to get more future workers off on the right foot.
Noble says current education and labor-market trends show that the Illinois workforce faces an increasingly serious skills gap.
The 150,000 jobs cover a wide array of industries from welding to software development to health care.
Kayla Edwards of Express Employment Professionals in Springfield said the lack of qualified workers costs businesses and the state.
She says it’s frustrating when someone really wants to work but isn’t qualified to take a job opening,” she said. “It’s equally frustrating for employers who can’t find well-skilled workers to fill jobs and often have to settle for hiring less-qualified employees.
Businesses either have to pay for education for these workers or potentially pay the workers they have more overtime. Sometimes the companies simply outsource to other states or overseas.
Noble said one of the biggest ways to combat the problem is to invest in early childhood education. He applauded Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed $25 million increase in next year’s budget, but said he wanted to double that to $50 million.
He says Illinois has lost a lot of ground in recent years as budget cuts have totaled $80 million in preschool and birth to (3-year-old) services, which in turn has closed preschool classes for more than 20,000 children statewide over the last few years.
Noble said his group and business leaders were focusing on early childhood education to develop basic skills in children from an early age that will translate when they get older.