PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A strategic planning conference Wednesday helped 120 community members, faculty and staff navigate the post-pandemic workforce.

Illinois Central College is working to find new ways for students to find a career after COVID.

Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey, president of ICC said they believe a community college is there to serve the community.

By listening to multiple perspectives and participating in collaborative dialogue, the college is confident together they can improve our community’s future.

The goal was to garner input from a broad selection of key stakeholder groups to identify what direction they want and need the college to take.

According to Quirk-Bailey, sometimes traditional education is just not getting the job done.

“Some of our programs you can start any month you want as long as it’s August,” she said when someone comes with ‘I really want to earn this credential; I need to go out and get that job,’ and you say come back in four months and you can start — that’s not in the community or student’s best interest.”

As a college, Quirk-Bailey said they are exploring all those themes and how can they reinvent themselves over the next five years, so they can serve the best interests of the students and community.

She’s taken a year to develop the college’s themes and critical issues.

Those in attendance spent the day weighing in on what they think the college should do going forward.

“Huge workforce gaps right now so these are amazing opportunities for individuals who need jobs, companies can’t expand and sometimes they can’t meet their current demand without having people with these credentials,” the ICC president said.

According to Quirk-Bailey, we need to ensure those who don’t have the credentials can move through college more quickly.

That way they are able to earn a family-sustaining wage.