Lake County Partners: Building a Solid Manufacturing Community
March 20, 2019
Finding skilled manufacturing employees has become so difficult that it is now almost impossible for any one company to do the job on its own. That is why we made a conscious decision to become an active participant in the Workforce Ecosystem of Lake County which is comprised of the College of Lake County, Lake County Tech Campus, Workforce Development and Lake County Partners. One of our main allies in this endeavor is Lake County Partners (LCP), a non-profit organization that works to maintain the economic vitality and improve the business climate in the region. As a result of their efforts, Lake County has the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the state outside of downtown Chicago.
WHAT COMPANIES WANT
Four years ago, seeking to emulate the success of Wisconsin and Chicago to attract companies, Kevin Considine, the President & CEO of Lake County Partners, sat down with businesses from both areas to discuss issues. According to them, the number one incentive companies are looking for is assistance in workforce development. “That’s when we realized that to attract, retain and expand businesses in Lake County, we had to create talent pools for them to draw from,” he said.
THE LAKE COUNTY WORKFORCE ECOSYSTEM
Workforce development is now at the core of LCP’s economic development strategy. The Lake County Workforce Ecosystem was developed to build a talent pipeline from the ground up that aligns with the region’s future workforce demands. This is accomplished by working closely with local partners. For example, College of Lake County offers career-related certification programs, and Lake County Tech Campus is an extension site of many area high schools for Juniors and Seniors to attend classes in a specific career training program.
LCP is also involved in specialized training programs, investment in STEM education, internship programs, career expos and more. Much of the Ecosystem’s current effort is at building awareness of manufacturing career paths at the high school level. “Students must be educated to see the value of a career in technical fields,” Kevin said.“Parents need to change their viewpoint on vocational paths for their sons and daughters as well.”
Laser precision pitches in
Kim Wimer, our Human Resources Manager, had only been on the job with our team a few weeks when she attended a Manufacturing Career Expo at Lake County Tech Campus.. At this career expo Kim was introduced to Laura Naselli, Project Coordinator for Lake County Partners. After an in-depth discussion with Laura on engaging with the Ecosystem and networking opportunities within the community Kim knew a partnership with LCP would aid Laser Precision to grow its workforce. Since one of our main business concerns is maintaining a workforce pipeline, we were pleased to learn a coalition was already in place to address this issue.
Through the connections at LCP, visiting high schools and technical colleges to talk about student career paths is now part of our recruitment program. LCP also invited us to sit on a panel to speak to a gathering of local philanthropic stakeholders on how to change the perception of careers in manufacturing and educating young adults on skilled career opportunities in Lake County. When LCP asked us to host tours for local high school counselors to show them a modern manufacturing facility, and to show how different it may be from the negative image they may have held previously, we were immediately on board. It has been rewarding to see the light bulb go off with these counselors who now can see alternative options for students.
And now, we’ve also begun hosting student tours from local schools so the students and parents can see a modern manufacturing facility for themselves. “Laser Precision is a core participant in our manufacturing career education efforts,” Kevin said. “They are the first ones called and we never get turned down.”
Mutually Beneficial Relationship
On our part, we are more than willing to invest our time in the support of LCP. They were instrumental in organizing the visit by former Governor Rauner to our facility on Manufacturing Day. Job fairs and job postings are bringing trained candidates to our door. Networking with other companies in the area has allowed us to discuss best practices and share challenges as colleagues rather than competitors. “I’m a hundred percent confident we wouldn’t be where we are as a company without the networking opportunities provided by Lake County Partners,” Kim concluded.