Local Business

Cumpata: Opportunities aplenty for the future workforce in McHenry County

During the summer and into the school year, parents travel around the U.S. with their children to visit colleges. Here in McHenry County, we have businesses that invite educators and students to get a glimpse into a career. That career could begin during or right after high school or during summer break from college or upon completion of college.

The opportunities with McHenry County businesses exist for the workforce of the future. This inside look is important if we are to fill the workforce gap being created as our baby boomers retire and our technology improvements continue at breakneck speeds.

Our workforce of the future needs to see how their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education actually relates to a business and how their potential careers in graphic arts, research and development, marketing, production or logistics all are vital to a business’ success.

Here are a few examples of the collaboration between MCEDC, businesses, McHenry County College, the Workforce Investment Board, the Workforce Network and our high schools that will impact our future workforce.

• Prairie Ridge High School’s Industry and Career Department hosted a recognition breakfast in May for its business partners who offered internships, employment or made presentations to their students. Jessica Hillmann, who graduated early in January and now attends North Central College, is majoring in small business and entrepreneurship.

Jessica also is a marketing intern with Scot Forge. She spoke to the business partners at the breakfast about her experience.

“I took a business and marketing classes my junior year in high school, and I was inspired by all the business professionals who brought a real-world experience to the classroom,” Hillmann said.

• McHenry County College has strong relationships with our county high school districts, offering dual credit, enhanced manufacturing programs, health care and more.  

• McHenry County Workforce Network provides a summer program for youth to learn interview skills, resume writing and career development. The network also runs a manufacturing internship program. Find the program on Facebook at McHenry County Workforce Youth Program.

• In 2014, MCEDC brought more than 1,200 high schools students to the International Manufacturing Technology Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. The generous financial support of our McHenry County manufacturers made the trip possible. McHenry County students had a strong showing at the show, which drew 10,000 students total.

• Last October, manufacturers from all over the United States opened their doors for Manufacturing Day, www.mgfday.com. As we did in 2014, MCEDC and our partners will host events and opportunities for the upcoming Manufacturing Day in October to provide an inside look at the incredible products being made right here in the county.

• The week of Aug. 31, the McHenry County Workforce Network will host events for Workforce Development Week at their office on Russel Court in Woodstock.

• McHenry County also is developing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) with Boone and Winnebago counties. One of the proposed goals is to impact the availability of skilled and flexible workforce that successfully meets the needs of existing and emerging industries and technologies.

McHenry County also hosted a CEDS Open House recently for the public to review and provide input on the goals, strategies and tactics of that plan. If you were unable to attend, you can attend meetings from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Belvidere City Hall, 401 Whitney Blvd., Belvidere; and from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at RMAP Regional Design Center, 313 N. Main St., Rockford.

These are only a few of the many ongoing activities and programs designed to impact our workforce of the future. McHenry County is fortunate to have committed leaders from throughout the region – educators, businesses, community groups, associations and others – collaborating and partnering to teach, train and develop careers for county residents.

• Pamela Cumpata is president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. Reach her at 815-893-0895 or pcumpata@mchenrycountyedc.com.

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