EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Thursday, during East Peoria’s Eggs & Issues event, area leaders discussed how people can develop skills to fill open jobs.

Rick Swan, executive director of the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce, said finding workers for job openings continues to be an uphill battle for employers.

“It’s just getting the person in the door and getting them to fill the job,” Swan said.

One of the challenges is the quality of workers that are necessary.

Illinois Central College President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey said only 40 percent of adults in the region have a credential beyond high school, but 60 percent of jobs require one.

She said that number is expected to grow to 70 percent over the coming years.

“Your likelihood to ever feed your family in the future, if you don’t do something past high school, you might as well play the lottery,” Quirk-Bailey said.

Quirk-Bailey said going to college is one way to obtain a credential but there are plenty of other options, whether it’s the military or programs like truck driving.

To help fill the gap, Illinois Central College is collaborating with industries, local businesses, and the community. An effort being is offering apprenticeship opportunities.

“It’s a way for students to get real work experience. It’s a way for the company to lock in those people, so there’s no question where they’re going when they graduate,” Quirk-Bailey said.

Local leaders have also created a regional workforce alliance to identify and address barriers to developing the workforce.

“What do we need in housing, what do we need in schools, what do we need in businesses, where are we falling short,” Swan said.

Quirk-Bailey said building a healthy workforce of the future also depends on encouraging the youth now.

“We need to help them figure out what they want to be and help them get there,” Quirk-Bailey said.

The opening of ICC’s new Workforce Sustainability Center which was planned to open in January has been delayed. Some parts for the facility are on back order and it’s now expected to open for the next fall semester.