If we learned anything from the earliest days of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that supply chains are critical and vulnerable. In Illinois, the lesson was taken to heart and work quickly started to shore up the state’s transportation, distribution and logistics sectors before the next wave arrived to rock the proverbial boat.
Earlier this year, Illinois unveiled a new training program focused on the supply chain management industry.
Since the pandemic hit, the rapid growth of e-commerce has generated an unprecedented demand for new skilled workers, with nearly 2,000 supply chain focused job opportunities in Illinois currently unfilled. In the next five years, more than 500,000 supply chain jobs will be added nationally. The program pairs a response to the demand for new talent now and in the years ahead with the State of Illinois’ ongoing efforts to create new job training opportunities for residents and those significantly impacted during COVID-19.
The program will be piloted in some of Illinois’ largest supply chain hubs, Southern Cook County, Metro East and, through the Appreticeship Illinois Program, Southern Illinois. An initial 250 participants will begin a one-week virtual training program, with an industry-aligned curriculum from ASCM covering topics such as inventory management, logistics and consumer distribution principles and basic management skills. At the end of the training, participants will receive a certificate in Essential Supply Chain Management Skills.
Those who complete training will have an opportunity to work with their local workforce agency to apply for supply chain careers available in the area.
Several Illinois companies have committed to the pilot program, including Continental Tires, Geodis, DB Schenker, World Wide Technology, PepsiCo and Phoenix Elevator.
DCEO, in partnership with its local workforce agencies facilitating training, will work directly with companies located in the pilot areas to identify additional underemployed individuals as candidates for training and scale the program to meet additional workforce demands in 2021.
“In our never-ending quest for training tools to prepare the residents of southern Illinois for the jobs of tomorrow, we are thrilled to be a part of the new Illinois Supply Chain Management Training Program to help connect hiring companies with talent in the region,” said Kathy Lively, CEO, Man-Tra-Con, Corporation, Southern Illinois Workforce Development Board. “Thanks to the team at DCEO and ASCM, we will provide industry-aligned supply chain management training to prepare Illinois residents the thousands of e-commerce jobs today, with many more to be added in the future.”
As part of the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, the Illinois Department of Transportation is earmarking $110 million to improve public ports across the state. The state has 19 ports on nearly 1,100 miles of navigable waterways, creating $36 billion in economic activity annually and supporting 160,000 jobs. The Rebuild Illinois plan was created in 2019 and will invest $33.2 billion over six years into the state’s transportation system.
In Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the two largest rivers in North America — the Ohio and the Mississippi — preparation is being made to construct a new $40 million riverport. Construction is expected to be in two years, but the Alexander-Cairo Port project already shows huge promise for the region. For example, approximately 80% of all inland barge traffic in the U.S. passes through Cairo. Additionally, the area is served by three highways, a Class 1 rail line operated by Canadian National and the Cairo Regional Airport.
The Alexander Cairo Port has been in development for years and represents one of the largest investments in Southern Illinois in decades. According to a Northern Illinois University economic impact study, its construction would create 500 jobs and more than $100 million in economic activity. In addition, the port will position Cairo as a national hub for the U.S. shipping and logistics industry.
“Rebuild Illinois is really about investing in the long-term economic success of our state – and this port project has the potential to represent the very best of our state’s future. Because this is more than a port – it’s also fuel for new jobs and newfound economic prosperity in a region that’s been left out and left behind for too long,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This will lift up farmers and industry across the region.”
Illinois’ Prime Location for e-commerce Distribution
E-commerce giant, Amazon, has invested $14 billion and created 36,000 full time jobs in Illinois since 2010. Some of Amazon’s main investments in the state over the years include 20 fulfillment and sortation centers, 20 delivery stations and its Tech Hub in Chicago. In 2019, the company expanded its Tech Hub and doubled its workforce in Chicago. A month later, Amazon announced it would open a new fulfillment center in Channahon, creating 500 new full-time jobs starting at $15 an hour. In 2020, Amazon opened two new Chicago area warehouses in Matteson and Markham.
The two new 855,000-sq.-ft. facilities will bring 2,000 jobs to the Chicago Southland area. The warehouses will use Amazon’s newest generation of robotics to help sort and ship goods. Both facilities are expected to be operational by the end-of-the-year holiday season. With 11 other facilities across the state, some 18,000 people are employed by Amazon across the state.
Another large online retailer, Wayfair Inc., has recently selected Illinois for its new 1.2 million-sq.-ft. fulfillment center. In February, the company chose an 80-acre site in Romeoville and expects to begin construction in mid-2022. The company plans to hire 250 full-time roles, with that number reaching up to 500 in peak seasons.
Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.