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Illinois’ tech manufacturers have a serious shortage of skilled talent and optimism about the state’s economic climate.

The Technology Manufacturers Association of Illinois has compiled a year of surveys from their thousand members and found that they’re optimistic about the national economy but think the state’s local economic climate is not where it should be. Even with the problematic tariff debate, Illinois manufacturers’ overall outlook in July was 8 percent positive. Their opinion of Illinois’ economy has stayed near 20 percent for the last 12 months.

TMA president Steve Rauschenberger says a number of his manufacturers have either expanded in other states or looked into it.

“There’s a lot of concern among small and medium-sized manufacturers that Illinois might not be the place to be long-term,” he said.

The largest issue that the members said is keeping them from expanding is the lack of educated talent in their area. The blame, Rauschenberger said, should be laid at the feet of K-12 institutions that aren’t properly teaching students math and universities that aren’t honest with incoming freshmen about the economic promise of their niché majors.

“The output we’re getting out of high schools usually requires remediation to put them in training courses,” Rauschenberger said. “Then they wander onto a four-year campus and end up $120,000 in debt with a sociology degree.”

Employees in the skilled trades are some of the most sought after workers in the nation today. Rauschenberger said a skilled tradesman makes more than most median wages in a short amount of time.

“We have TMA member employees that are making $50,000 after five years of employment and they’re approaching six figures consistently after 8-10 years,” he said.

The survey polls 25 random members each month.

Staff Writer

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.