The 1990s will be a time of challenge for workers, employers and educators in Illinois.
And the time to answer the challenge is now.
The decade of the '80s, in which employers could pick and choose in hiring, is over.
In the next decade, some 770,000 new workers will be needed in the state, adding to the current labor force of 6 million. But, for the first time in 25 years, the Illinois work force is shrinking.
Making sure that Illinois has people qualified to fill the new job openings is the No. 1 goal the state must meet. That challenge is not unique to Illinois, as the nation will be trying to do the same.
Employees as well as industry will have to be prepared for the continuing occupational shift to the providing of services-computer and data processing, medical, personnel and business services-and away from the familiar Illinois mainstays of manufacturing and agriculture.
By 1999, employment in manufacturing industries will shrink to about 17 percent of the state's work force, down from 25 percent in 1980. But the fact that such employment is on the decline doesn't mean that manufacturing is on its way out in Illinois. It means, rather, that firms are more capital-intensive and less labor-intensive. They are becoming automated.
That means workers will have to learn the technological skills required by a service-producing economy-and employers will have to train them.
According to the American Society for Training and Development, employers now spend $30 billion annually on the education of employees; $1 billion of that sum goes to teach basic literacy.
However, as the state enters the 1990s, that's not enough money to fill the need of workers to learn new and necessary skills.
"We're advising companies now to build education systems that support a transformation into the kind of corporation they'll need to be to cope with all the predicted changes," said Pat Galagan of the training society.
"The challenges companies will be asked to meet are competing in a global economy, a diverse work force, changing skill levels and the challenge of dealing with change itself. They will have to be flexible."
So will workers, because nearly two-thirds of all new jobs in Illinois will be in white-collar occupations in finance, real estate, insurance, banking, health care and retailing. These jobs require well-educated, computer-literate workers with good communications skills, and many in the projected labor pool don't fit that description.
Managing a diverse work force will be necessary, because the bulk of new hires are likely to be 35 years of age and over, a result of the "birth dearth," or low birth rate, which has reduced the traditional pool of entry-level workers ages 16 to 24.
And, for the first time, the American white male will be outnumbered in new jobs by women, minorities and immigrants.
The challenge for corporations will be to learn to manage and motivate a variety of people.