Experts urge students to focus on career credentials
By Sue Stephens
ROCKFORD – Students across Illinois are heading back to school. And increasingly, they’re finding alternatives to bachelor’s degrees to reach their career goals.
NPR-Illinois hosted a forum in Rockford on Thursday about training today’s workforce. Northern Illinois University associate vice president Rena Cotsones and Workforce Connection director Lisa Bly had advice for students setting off on a career path.
Cotsones says instead of telling students they need to go to college, they should be told they need to earn a credential. That could be a degree or some other specific job training. Bly says oftentimes under-employed people can’t afford to take time off work to pursue career training. So her organization works with businesses to help them invest in training for their employees.
While the unemployment rate is 4.3 percent in Illinois, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Many people have dropped out of the labor force and many more count themselves under-employed. Panelists said that can be traced back to job training. Brian Harger is with Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies. He says up until recently, people in the field of economic development focused on helping companies create more jobs or attracting new businesses to an area.
The state is dealing with the shortage of trained employees in a program called Illinois 60 by 25. The goal is for sixty percent of adults to earn a post-secondary degree or career credential by 2025. That number stands at 40 percent currently.