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Quad Cities Chamber discusses future of workforce

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 9:03 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2022 at 9:30 PM CST
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QUAD CITIES (KWQC) - The Quad Cities Chamber hosted a business forum on Thursday, going over the workforce shortage and what they believe the future holds for the economy. Throughout Illinois and Iowa, we’re seeing more job openings than there are unemployed people. In Iowa, there are 61,600 unemployed people as of November 2021 but there are 83,331 job openings according to Beth Townsend, the director for Iowa Workforce Development

“This is not your Father’s workforce or even last year’s workforce- two years ago workforce. We need new and original recruitment strategies.”

Beth Townsend, Director for Iowa Workforce Development

The Quad Cities Chamber explained that since the pandemic, employees are looking for more than just a good wage, they want a good work-life balance as well. Jim Morgan, Vice-President of Business Development & Workforce Strategies explains, “now it’s a little bit more complicated. How are we doing in terms of explaining professional development? Explaining what your track looks like here, how you’re going to get better how we’re going to help you get better and how you can advance in this organization. Compensation obviously still matters, but at the end of the day they’re looking at culture and they’re looking at ‘I want to work, this isn’t about not having a good work ethic, but I want to have a life too.”

Part of the reason we’re seeing a work shortage is because much of our workforce is retiring, but we’re not seeing as many people enter, according to Morgan. So, there’s more of an upper hand for employees to pick and choose where they want to go. That could be somewhere more diverse, somewhere that pays them more, or somewhere with different perks. Instead of a 401k, some jobs are offering to pay your student loans.

He recommended making sure the Quad Cities stays on top of this and makes our area somewhere people want to go to for a good quality of life and starting to look at a different crowd for a variety of jobs, even before high school. Julio Rodriguez, the Deputy Director for Illinois Office of Employment & Training says, “we need to start younger, expose young people to jobs- not just the traditional jobs. What I’m excited I’ve seen more and more elementary schools expose to jobs in manufacturing. We didn’t do a good job of marketing to young people early on.”

The Iowa Workforce Development says Iowa is one of the few states to put federal money into apprenticeship programs. They recommend showing middle and high school students what careers are like before they graduate.

Other ideas brought up Thursday included looking at hiring freelancers for positions, or non-traditional candidates like those who were recently incarcerated. They also recommended trying to keep retirees as part-time workers instead of leaving the workforce entirely.

You can watch the full forum here.

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