Business Executives Take Workforce Development Message to Illinois Leaders
State capitol visits focus on skill-building value of young children’s care, education
Workforce- and economic-development hopes would benefit from further, proven investments in young children, a group of business leaders told top state policymakers during ReadyNation Illinois’ inaugural Day at the Capitol. Executives from Rockford to Marion took part in the day’s activities, which featured conversations with Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin.
The discussions centered on topics such as Illinois’ gaping need for new and updated pre-K and child care facilities as policymakers prepare the state’s next capital plan. The ReadyNation members expressed business community support for retention and growth of the Early Childhood Construction Grants program, which was established 10 years ago, and whose $45 million in resources were quickly exhausted by overwhelming needs.
ReadyNation members shared that early learning is critical for helping to ground youngsters in not only technical skills, but such “soft skills” as good communications, punctuality, and creative thinking. Waiting until young people are older and already applying for jobs is a mistake, they said.
“You’re then trying to retrain ingrained habits, and that’s really, really hard to do,” explained Nancie Zobrist, Executive Director of the Highland Chamber of Commerce.
Other ReadyNation members participating in the March 6 Day at the Capitol were Janet Mathis, Principal at The Development Consortium in Geneseo; Jason Powell, Director of Shipping at PepsiCo MidAmerica in Marion; Rudy Valdez, Engineering Manager with Kaney Aerospace in Rockford; and Lisa Weitzel, President of the Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives in Springfield.
In addition to legislative caucus leaders, these business executives met with nine rank-and-file legislators from various areas of Illinois. Other topics included ReadyNation’s support for improving income-eligibility guidelines for child care assistance, as well as boosting resources for child care, preschool, and birth-to-3 services.