PEORIA — The manufacturing industry in Illinois is nearly 600,000 employees strong.
But with retirements looming for many workers there, now is the time for people to look at work in the field, the head of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association said Monday.
"Half of those individuals are going to retire in the next 10 or 15 years," Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the IMA, said at a news conference at The Farnsworth Group's offices. "We need about 20,000 production workers and (3,000 to 5,000) engineers every year just for the next decade or so just to remain constant."
The visit was part of a statewide effort to emphasize the importance of manufacturing on area communities.
Locally, more than 30,000 people in Peoria and Tazewell counties have manufacturing-related jobs, according to statistics released by IMA. Each manufacturing job supports an additional 1.2 to 1.4 jobs elsewhere in the community, their statistics state.
The result, Denzler said, is "good, middle-class jobs" for residents, and production that forms the backbone of the counties' wealth.
Efforts to encourage people to entering manufacturing fields are ongoing, including a new, state effort to help offset the cost of apprenticeships for businesses.
"Incentivizing apprenticeships is going to be an amazing part of trying to help continue that great workforce," Greater Peoria Economic Development Council CEO Chris Setti said.
A tax credit passed during the recent legislative session helps offset $3,500 of educational expense for apprenticeships.
"Today's factories are modern and high tech," Denzler said. "The outdated perception of factories being dark, dirty and dangerous is no longer."
Area community colleges, including Illinois Central College, have recently started new career-training programs in manufacturing- and production-related fields, and, Denzler said, Gov. JB Pritzker has committed to enhancing vocational, career and technical education in the state's high schools.
Denzler said that manufacturing groups secured some other legislative wins during the last year, including a five-year extension of the state research-and-development tax credit. Such extensions have long been championed by Caterpillar, Inc., which spends the bulk of its $1 billion R&D budget at its Mossville facility.