Special Report: High pay and high demand – a look at the top industries in Central Illinois

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Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Information Technology.

Those at the top three high demand industries right now in the Heart of Illinois according to the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

“We have hundreds of jobs open right now and we have hundreds of people who are out of work and who are looking for work.” said CEO of the EDC Chris Setti

But Setti said the issue now is a skills mismatch. A challenge Andrew Kerr with Illinois Central College is taking on.

“You have a lot of people here that would love to have these opportunities but they’re stuck in that cycle of the minimum wage jobs. ” said Kerr, the Associate Vice President of Work Force Development for ICC

But that work force needs the skills to fill those positions we mentioned, and not all of those jobs require a college degree. Dr. Kerr said most just require some sort of post secondary credential.

“We’re looking at the jobs that are in high demand but also are a family sustaining wage. Jobs that aren’t in high demand because of high turnover, they’re high demand because of the needed areas in this region which are primarily manufacturing, healthcare, and IT.” said Kerr

Starting with information technology:

The Peoria Public School District has a growing program, slated to start next year, exposing students to the field.

Wages in IT in the Greater Peoria Area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,  range from an average of $44,100 for computer support specialists to around $95,510 for software developers. While a master’s degree would net more money, you can land an entry level position with certification available even to kids in high school.

“Ultimately we want students to sit for the ComTIA certification and with that certification they can take that to employers and be eligible for a wide variety of jobs within the IT world and these positions are family sustaining wages so we’re very excited about that, we have students that are highly interested, we have an economy that needs their skills.” said Thomas Welsh, the Executive Director of High Schools for PPS

Now to healthcare:

Central Illinois has four nursing schools just miles apart.

“I always have people tell me that they think Peoria’s like the regional mecca of healthcare. With two major hospital systems competing for great talent that’s the reason why it’s one of the hottest jobs in the area.” said Regional Manager of Talent Acquisition for Unity Point Health Courtney Newgard

Nursing jobs in the Greater Peoria Area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,  range from an average of $45,650 for an Licensed Practical Nurse to $62,250 for a Registered Nurse. You can complete a year long program for some nursing jobs and continue in school for a bachelor’s and master’s degree. But Newgard said the struggle is keeping talent here.

At Unity Point Health beyond financial benefits of sign on bonuses and loan forgiveness, Newgard said they are promoting development from within.

“One of the ways we’ve been able to do that is by introducing our first ever seize opportunity nursing scholarship program” said Newgard

The program gives money to employees to continue their nursing education. Development specialist Sara Caruso said in a career so demanding, a support system is what keeps them in Central Illinois.

“We have resources such as a mentorship program where we have experienced nurses that are taking these new nurses under their wing and really giving them the resources they need because although it is a fulfilling career, it can be very difficult at times..” said Caruso

Finally manufacturing:

One specialty that’s hot right now is welding.

“Well even though Caterpillar is moving some of their stuff, they outsource so much, a lot of these smaller companies they’re still quite large but smaller than caterpillar are really booming. There’s a lot of welding that getting called in from John Deer, Case, New Holland. They’re still building in the Central Illinois area.” said Curtis Rippey the  Welding Coordinator for ICC

Rippey said people do not often realize how much welding is needed for their everyday lives. With as little as seven classes for a production certificate from ICC. The average wage in the Greater Peoria Area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is around $43,000 for a production welder. Rippey said it offers opportunities many students thought were impossible.

“Something that we can actually help change their lives, that they can go, I can do this, I can get a good job, make decent money and support my family.” said Rippey

For a look at the data from the US Bureau of Labor statistics click here.

For more information on employment in the Greater Peoria area click here.

For more information on Career Pathways click here.

For more information on the programs at Illinois Central College click here.

There are a number of programs at the other colleges, universities, hospitals, employers, and high-schools in the area, these are just a few of the examples from the top three industries.


Kaitlin Pearson

Kaitlin Pearson

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