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Study praises McHenry County life


The Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK McHenry County must better prepare residents for skilled work, and it must attract high-paying jobs, a report released Tuesday recommends.

An abbreviated version of the McHenry County State of the Workforce report praises the area for its high quality of life, good education system and increasing ethnic diversity.

Those benefits are being marred by one of the longest average commutes in the region, low education levels among immigrants and a dependence on manufacturing in the local economy.

Low-paying jobs are making gains in McHenry County, while skilled workers travel out of the county to work.

U.S. Census figures released earlier this year showed that half of McHenry County workers travel to other counties to work, while 17 percent of jobs in McHenry County are filled by people who live outside the county.

The county's heavy dependence on manufacturing means the local economy swings with the national economy. In the early 1990s, nearly 38 percent of McHenry County workers were employed in manufacturing. By 2000, manufacturing employed only 30 percent of the work force.

According to job projections, there will be more jobs in McHenry County for chief executives, retail salespeople, cashiers, managers, secretaries, office clerks and landscaping workers in 2008.

The report recommends the following:

* McHenry County should create highly skilled and highly paid jobs in manufacturing and give residents the skills to get those jobs.

* The McHenry County work force should have better basic skills.

* Educators should teach immigrants skills, especially the English language.

* Economic leaders should help bring high-skill, professional jobs to the area, to keep residents in the county for work.

The recommendations were issued by a group of McHenry County economic and education leaders selected by the Workforce Investment Board.

Sandra Pierce, president of Phoenix Woodworking and president of the Workforce Investment Board, said education of the growing immigrant population is a top priority.

The report says that half of all immigrants from foreign countries living in McHenry County do not have a high school-level education.

McHenry County schools need help teaching English as a second language and teaching immigrants' children the skills they will need to join the work force.

"We have the potential. We have the land that's available. We have the quality of life, and we do have the work force," Pierce said.

The full State of the Workforce report should be available in the next few weeks. It will be distributed to businesses, schools and economic development groups. The study was paid for with a grant from the state Department of Employment Security.

A copy may be posted on the county Web site, and copies may be available on compact disc.



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Towns in McHenry County, Illinois
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Algonquin Cary Crystal Lake Harvard Hebron Huntley Johnsburg
Mchenry Marengo Oakwood Hills Richmond Spring Grove
Woodstock Wonder Lake

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