Durbin listens to concerns, ideas for local manufacturing jobs

Discouragement by parents and the lack of a specific skill set are two of the main reasons young people are not filling jobs that manufacturing companies across the state have open and desperately need to fill, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Tuesday.

Durbin spent about an hour at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center with more than a dozen government, school and business leaders from Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates and the surrounding suburbs to discuss manufacturing work readiness and economic development.

“There is a certain pride in being involved in technical professional work, and that would be a wonderful thing for us to establish here,” Durbin said. “We kind of, unfortunately, are still stuck in this mindset that it’s either college or failure, and there are many options other than college degrees that can lead to a great job and a great future. That is a door that we really have to open.”

Durbin spent the majority of the meeting listening to the guests — including members of the Golden Corridor Manufacturing Group — share problems they face when trying to fill manufacturing jobs and how they have slowly begun to get people interested in the field.

Representatives from Harper College and Wheeling High School noted that programs such as Project Lead the Way, which involve hands-on experiences, get students interested in the field. They also recommended that students who want to pursue manufacturing enroll in multiple computer and math classes.

Durbin said it is important to familiarize students, starting in high school, with manufacturing opportunities and give them a chance to attend open houses at local companies. He added that students need to be informed about what colleges to choose for a good education in manufacturing.

“The community colleges are the key,” he said. “We have got to warn these students about being diverted into for-profit schools that many times are worthless. They end up telling them they’ll accept everybody ... and they end up not training them for jobs.”

Durbin also mentioned that another hurdle to filling manufacturing jobs is that many applicants are failing drug tests.

Gary Skoog, director of economic development for Hoffman Estates, noted a federal program recently announced by President Barack Obama would establish a regional institute for manufacturing innovation.

Terry Iverson, president of Des Plaines-based Iverson & Company, said he believes Durbin understands the challenges manufacturing companies are faced with today.

“He was very concerned and very sincerely interested in what it is that we can do to make a difference,” Iverson said.

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