WREX TV Rockford
April 30, 2012
By Samantha Jeffreys
FREPORT (WREX) - Rural leaders, citizens, and employers had a chance to have their voices heard during a rural listening post event in Freeport on Monday.
Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon hosted the event, which opened up a discussion on how to strengthen educational opportunities and workforce development in the region. Main issues covered included business climate, health care, education, infrastructure, and quality of life. The Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs will collect the feedback from the forums for use in developing a strategic plan for the IIRA and member agencies.
"To keep pace with our changing economy, Illinois needs 60 percent of working-age adults to have a college degree or credential by 2025," Lt. Gov. Simon said. "But in rural areas, only a quarter of working-age adults have a two-year degree or higher. As a state, we need to make better connections between employers, high schools, community colleges, and public universities so that students have clear pathways from school to work and from college to career."
An important topic discussed during the forum was the challenges that have arisen in the manufacturing field as jobs become more technical. Five percent of manufacturing jobs across the country are unfilled due to lack of qualified workers. As a result, Simon is currently pursuing educational reforms in Illinois to improve college and career readiness in math.
The final rural listening post will be May 10 in Quincy. For more information on the listening posts, visit www.ltgov.illinois.gov