Manufacturing advocates, legislators push funding for career training as worker shortage looms
While lawmakers and industry experts agree that legislation is needed to drive interest in Illinois manufacturing careers, the impact of the governor’s progressive-tax proposal on the state’s economy stands to threaten whatever forward momentum can be achieved.
Trade groups like the Illinois Manufacturing Association (IMA) have been backing legislation to boost training that will help offset an anticipated 300,000-worker shortfall over the next decade, according to Mark Denzler, the association’s president and CEO.
“With nearly 300,000 workers set to retire in the next decade, Illinois manufacturers will need to find nearly 20,000 production workers and 3,000 engineers annually to remain level,” Denzler said in a press release.
Illinois House Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) agreed that the crisis requires government intervention. Batinick spoke with Prairie State Wire via email.
“Yes, it’s a real possibility,” he said of the coming worker shortage. “We keep doing things to hurt manufacturers. High property taxes disproportionately hurt manufacturers. I can’t think of one policy being promoted that is helpful to them.”
An example of a negative policy is Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s progressive income tax proposal, facing active opposition from both the IMA and the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA). The TMA issued a press release denouncing Pritzker’s plan, saying more than 90 percent of its 1,000 members oppose it.
The group’s president, Steve Rauschenberger, said in the release that Illinois had an “anti-business climate” and the tax plan would make matters worse.
“The manufacturing industry is booming nationwide, and while the Chicagoland area contains five out of the 10 biggest manufacturing zip codes in America, we have not been able to enjoy this same economic boom here thanks to misguided policies like this tax hike,” Rauschenberger was quoted in the release.
Jim Nelson, executive director of the IMA Education Foundation, said in an interview with Prairie State Wire that the IMA had backed several recent bills aimed at improving access to manufacturing careers.
“Last year, we focused on two bills to improve facilities and update aging equipment used in secondary and post-secondary classrooms,” Nelson said via email. “In 2019, our focus has now turned to increasing the number of vocational education teachers and helping to offset the investment costs of employers who engage registered apprentices for their high-skill, high-wage jobs.”