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May 19, 2005

Health Care Worker Shortages Projected, Opportunity Returns Grant Will Attract and Train New Nurses to Help Meet Expected Demand

URBANA – Continuing to deliver on his Opportunity Returns pledge to invest in East Central Illinois’ workforce, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced $180,000 to support health care training in the East Central region that will address critical shortages in the local workforce.  Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Jack Lavin made the announcement today at Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, alongside health care and educational leaders from throughout East Central Illinois.
“Securing the future of the health care industry in East Central Illinois goes hand in hand with fostering a vibrant economy and a high quality of life.  The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative is a grassroots effort to strengthen the local health care industry by ensuring that there is a steady pipeline of trained nurses to meet the projected demand in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes across the region.  This Opportunity Returns grant will not only help address a pressing challenge, but continue to enhance the caliber of the local workforce,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
Local hospitals and clinics currently do not have the necessary talent pool of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to meet demand, and, if these shortages are not addressed, they will only get worse as older workers retire.  The Governor’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative will focus on supporting career progression for incumbent health care workers and non-traditional students with strong ties to the community, as well as training and support services for RN students.  By increasing capacity in both the academic and clinical teaching environments, the CSSI initiative will allow 52 new students to enroll in nursing programs.
The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative (CSSI) has been one of Gov. Blagojevich’s top Opportunity Returns priorities, and he recently addressed the important needs facing the health care industry in his State of the State address.  The $180,000 workforce investment announced today follows a nearly $160,000 planning grant last year where stakeholders from throughout the region, including the Local Workforce Investment Boards, area employers, economic development professionals, educators and service providers, met to
identify industry sectors, and specific occupations within those sectors, where there are current or projected shortages of skilled workers.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is administering the East Central region’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative (CSSI). 
“The nursing shortage that health care experts are projecting is a major concern that we need to address head-on.  Gov. Blagojevich and I understand this is not only a workforce issue but a quality of life issue, and efforts such as this one show we are committed to finding viable solutions that will help ensure quality and accessible patient care today and tomorrow,” said State Rep. William Black (R-Danville).
“The regional stakeholders believe it is essential that we tackle this important issue so we can meet the current and future demand for nurses.  Gov. Blagojevich’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative will continue to expand opportunity in our workforce and ensure that quality and reliable patient care is never jeopardized,” said Al Anderson, Executive Director of the Champaign Consortium.
The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative combines the knowledge and resources of countless partners throughout the East Central region, including:
Local Workforce Investment Boards: Workforce Investment Area (#18), Workforce Investment Board of East Central Illinois (#19) and Crossroads Workforce Investment Board (#23).
Health care partners: Provena Covenant Medical Center, Carle Foundation Hospital, Gibson Area Hospital, Iroquois Memorial Hospital, Hoopeston Regional Healthcare, Veterans Administration, Illiana Healthcare Systems, Prairie Center Health Systems and Hoopeston Area Healthcare.
Educational partners: Parkland College and Danville Area Community College.
“The Critical Skills Shortage Initiative is using an innovative method to build a more dynamic workforce in the 21st century.  While many job-training models tend to be reactionary, training workers for immediate job openings in positions with little opportunity for advancement, Gov. Blagojevich’s program uses a proactive, visionary approach to workforce development.  By targeting the health care industry in the East Central region, this training grant will address a pressing labor shortage in an absolutely critical field, while also preparing our workforce to take advantage of great career opportunities emerging in their own backyard,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history.  Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges.  Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses.  It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs.  Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.


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