A Workforce Whirlwind

by Jan Wright, Publisher

“Workforce is everything,” proclaimed consultant Frank Knott last August at the first meeting of the Policy Steering Committee for the Focus Forward Central Illinois (FFCI) economic development initiative. “In a knowledge economy, the first, second and third priorities of economic development need to be workforce, workforce, workforce.”

As the FFCI initiative has developed over the last nine months, enhancement of the regional workforce has risen to the top of its priorities. In fact, all five of its primary goals—the creation of new jobs, improving the pay of existing jobs, increased attainment of bachelor and graduate degrees, and increases in both the overall population and the 25-to-44-year-old age bracket—are integrally tied to the workforce of Greater Peoria. When it comes to economic development, workforce is indeed everything.

As you peruse this issue, you’ll notice FFCI referenced in quite a few of the articles—a testament to its broad reach and breadth of community involvement. A concerted effort was made to reach out to every section of the community, and more than 1,000 people across the region have gotten involved with FFCI in some way. One of its forums last fall was held entirely in Spanish—with additional Spanish-language forums to come—while an action team targeting Generation Y, or “GENext,” is facilitating the involvement of young professionals.

This outreach mirrors the demographic shifts taking place all across the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, today’s minority groups are expected to comprise the majority of the U.S. population by the year 2043. Most notably, the rise of Latinos, the maturation of Gen-Y and the retirement of the Baby Boomers will continue to have a tremendous impact on the composition of the future workforce.

No matter who you are or what industry you’re in, the winds of change are all around us. Whether you have changed voluntarily or were forced to, it’s a pretty safe bet that your workplace is different today than it was five years ago. Given its significance to our community, it’s good to know that FFCI is at the forefront of embracing this change.

Thanks to focused, forward thinking by our community leaders, we are charting a solid course for the future. Newly-elected Congresswoman Cheri Bustos may have said it best at a February luncheon in Peoria, when she offered up the following adage: “If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.” One has to adapt, or be left in the dust wondering. iBi

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