Solve Your Workforce Challenges by Thinking Outside-of-the-Box


If you’re having hiring issues, you are not alone. 

The IMA Education Foundation’s 2021 Statewide Education and Workforce Policy Tour revealed that statewide manufacturers are facing “unprecedented challenges” when it comes to filling their workforce needs.[1] 

At the Valley Industrial Association (VIA), we are seeing the same thing.   Everyday our members are telling us about their hiring struggles.  Workers are retiring or leaving the field at a far greater rate than our partners have ever experienced in the past, and new workers seem to be impossible to find.

Recently, GCAMP, the VIA’s nonprofit workforce development partner, hosted a Workforce Strategies Forum for our members in our Geneva, Illinois office.    With over 40 attendees, online and in-person, we knew that this was a topic that was urgent to our members.  

During the forum, manufacturers quickly scribbled down notes as our guest speakers revealed some exciting news.   They told our colleagues in manufacturing not to give up hope.  Your new workforce is out there.   There are skilled men and women ready and eager to take on opportunities in manufacturing.  You just need to be willing to look outside the box.  

Bryan VanDyke and Karrie Pearce from AutonomyWorks, based out of Downers Grove, Illinois, shared this message first.   According to their website, autism is the fastest growing disability in the United States, and within the next ten years, half a million people with autism will move out of the school system and into the work-world where nearly 80% of these adults will be unemployed or under employed.   The mission of AutonomyWorks is to help autistic adults find the jobs that they want and need in order to contribute their unique talents and skills to the community.  

However, Bryan and Karrie emphasized that this is not simply a feel-good cause.   The population they serve have unique strengths that, in many ways, exceed their neurotypical counterparts.   Autistic adults are often exceptionally skilled at maintaining focus through complex and repetitive tasks.   They are strong in process discipline, following every step of a process every time, and they are very analytical.   The employers employing autistic adults through AutonomyWorks saw an increase in productivity with a decrease in errors, from a population that was eager to work and grateful for the opportunity.  


The best part – after a successful trial run with Suncast, manufacturer of outdoor living and storage items, AutonomyWorks is looking to build more partnerships within manufacturing.   AutonomyWorks has multiple execution models to create the best fit for your needs.   You can find out more on their website

Next to speak, was VIA’s longtime friend, Judith Dawson, Director of Diversion and Reentry Programs, from the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.  The Kane County Sheriff’s Office has seen a dramatic drop in recidivism among returning citizens when former detainees have jobs.  Therefore, it is their mission to provide detainees with employable skills prior to their release and help them find jobs upon release. 

Last year alone, 48 detainees and 135 community members became certified forklift drivers through a program offered through the Sheriff’s Office.   33 detainees received their OSHA 10 certification, and 68 detainees received their OSHA 30 certification.   In addition, the Sheriff’s Office helped detainees earn their GEDs and helped non-native speakers with their English skills. 

To help you find your future skilled workforce, the Kane County Sheriff’s Office encourages all employers to post their job openings on their free Job Board,   Job seekers who use this board are given resources, such as resume help, job training, transportation, childcare, and sometimes even housing, to ensure that they are successful in their new job. 

You can find out more by contacting Judith Dawson at

Last to speak at the GCAMP Workforce Strategies Forum was AnnMarie Fauske, Deputy Director for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Kane County.  CASA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for children in the foster care system.   They seek safe, nurturing, and permanent homes for all foster children.  

Fauske shared with our manufacturers that there are more than 9,500 children in foster care in the state of Illinois, and many of these children continue to receive services through the state until age 21.   In fact, young men and women ages 18 through 21 make up 6 percent of the total children served by CASA, or roughly 570 people in Illinois.  

Without adequate support systems at home, the young men and women in the foster care program can struggle to establish themselves in the community.   According to research by the Urban Institute, “compared with other young people, those aging out of foster care have less stable employment, work fewer hours, and earn lower wages as they enter adulthood, while often having greater demands to support themselves financially.” [2]

To best serve her clientele, Fauske asked that manufacturers who would be willing to hire and train a young adult transitioning out of foster care contact her.  She is gathering information on apprenticeship programs, career-training positions and entry level job opportunities and welcomes all resources.

Please contact AnnMarie Fauske via email,


GCAMP understands the challenges you face when it comes to filling your workforce pipeline, and we are committed to helping you find new solutions and approach challenges in innovative ways.   We encourage you to consider partnering with AutonomyWorks, the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, or CASA for your next new hires.   You may find that the ROI on your new strategy doesn’t just benefit your business; it could set someone on a path to a newer, brighter future!





Dawn Curran

Dawn Curran
Executive Director
Valley Industrial Association/GCAMP