CFL News
November 27, 2012

Letter to the editor: Skilled workers

In a letter in today's Chicago Tribune, Jorge Ramirez explains how organized labor is helping train workers for advanced manufacturing jobs and why it's important

Source: Chicago Tribune

By Jorge Ramirez

Skilled workers

One of the keys to ensuring Chicago's economic strength in the years ahead lies in our ability to lead in highly skilled advanced manufacturing.

Research by the Chicago Federation of Labor and Center for Labor and Community Research found that 40 percent of the Chicago-area manufacturing workforce is expected to retire in the current decade.

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the Chicago metropolitan area has a shortage of skilled workers to fill the 6,968 manufacturing jobs that open up every year.

We can retain a significant number of manufacturing jobs, which have a greater positive impact on the economy than jobs in any other industry, by working with manufacturers, the public sector, educators and labor to invest in a workforce that is more highly skilled and prepared for employment than anywhere else.

The Chicago Federation of Labor Workers Assistance Committee is a leader in providing workforce development services throughout Cook County.

Working with more than 1,200 different manufacturers in Northeast Illinois through its network of partners, the CFL WAC has placed hundreds of workers into employment in the last six years by helping companies recruit workers and providing training services to help bridge the skills gap.

Labor also works closely with the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council and Austin Polytechnical Academy, the city's only vocational high school geared toward preparing students for careers in advanced manufacturing. The recent $1.25 million investment by the city of Chicago in the school will help expand training and job-placement efforts for students and neighborhood adults. This collaborative approach is also supported by the business and civic leaders at World Business Chicago.

Making Chicago a leading advanced manufacturing hub is one of the 10 transformative strategies in its Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs released earlier this year and backed by organized labor. While we have lost many manufacturing jobs to downsizing and off-shoring in recent years, we can retain and even attract new advanced manufacturing jobs that pay middle-class wages and benefits by creating a healthy environment for success, led by a skilled workforce.

— Jorge Ramirez, president, Chicago Federation of Labor