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Photo by Frank Prager
David Stoecklin (left), executive director for Madison County Employment and Training, moderated a conversation on workforce preparation with Tony Esposito, chief of staff for the Illinois Department of Economic Development and Opportunity; and Jennifer Foster, deputy director for the Illinois Community College Board.
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Photo by Frank Prager
More than 120 leaders from business education and government attended the annual Business & Industry Appreciation Evening April 28 at the Gateway Center in Collinsville.
COLLINSVILLE — The Chamber Of Commerce of Southwestern Madison County hosted its annual Business & Industry Appreciation Evening on Thursday, April 28, at the Gateway Center.
The event focused on the partnerships necessary among the business, education and government communities to prepare students for future workforce opportunities.
The program consisted of presentations and forums. A video prepared by Granite City High School students outlined activities and opportunities related to local schools. Presenters noted steps local institutions are taking to shape the future workforce. Also, a stage conversation and audience question-and-answer session centered around challenges and strategies associated with these goals.
Ed Cunningham, CEO for Gateway Regional Medical Center, provided opening remarks for more than 120 attendees. In explaining the need to prepare students for the future, he emphasized collaboration.
“It’s not up to the schools,” he said. “It’s not up to the parents. It’s not up to the businesses. It’s up to all of us.”
He explained that not every student goes to school to become a doctor or a lawyer.
“Every job is important,” he said.
A video, “This Is Who We Are,” highlighted local advantages, including its location, abundant natural assets and strong industrial base. It featured activities taking place at Holy Family School, St. Elizabeth’s School, Venice Elementary School, Madison Junior/Senior High School, Granite City High School and Southwestern Illinois College. Presenters noted educational resources include Lindenwood College and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
The evening’s featured event was a conversation moderated by David Stoecklin, executive director for Madison County Employment and Training. It included Jennifer Foster, deputy director of the Illinois Community College Board; and Tony Esposito, chief of staff for the Illinois Department of Economic Development and Opportunity.
Stoecklin pointed out the need to develop a pipeline between schools and businesses and asked the participants what needed to be done in this regard.
Foster explained how high schools need to help individuals develop skills early on. She said programs like apprenticeships can help students understand the working world.
“Embedding these experiences in their curriculum will help prepare them for their careers,” she said.
Esposito agreed, noting that employer-driven development of academic programs is necessary to develop skills needed for future jobs.
“Manufacturing is not what it was 20 or 30 years ago,” he said, emphasizing the need to target business’ changing requirements.
Rosemarie Brown, director of the Southwestern Madison County Chamber of Commerce and the event’s primary organizer, provided closing remarks. She stressed the importance of education, business and government working together to prepare the region for future opportunities.
“We must find answers to prepare us for today’s as well as tomorrow’s workplace,” she said.
She said the door was now open and everyone needed to find a way to continue working together into the future.
“Let’s get busy,” she said.