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Illinois to tackle critical staffing shortages

Employers still failing to hire enough workers, despite unemployment decreases (UpNorthLive)
Employers still failing to hire enough workers, despite unemployment decreases (UpNorthLive)
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Illinois is launching a laser-focused recruitment and retention strategy to attract quality professionals in the social services and healthcare fields.

Governor JB Pritzker, D-Illinois, made the announcement on Wednesday.

The goal of the initiative is to address staffing shortages in the State of Illinois’ agencies that provide essential health and safety services to Illinois’ most vulnerable residents.

Illinois officials say the state is having a hard time trying to fill the thousands of vacancies in the Departments of Human Services, Corrections, and Veteran’s Affairs.

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“Since COVID-19 upended our State—and world—we have experienced severe labor shortages that disproportionately impact our most vulnerable residents,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “That’s why we are launching a laser-focused recruitment and retention strategy to attract quality professionals in the social services and healthcare fields. No matter the challenges of today’s job market, our administration is mobilizing every available resource to make sure every resident has access to the critical services they need and deserve.”

To address the staffing challenges faced by many of our service agencies, the following immediate actions will be taken:

  • On an emergency basis, the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) will develop and implement a State-wide recruiting campaign focused on direct care staff serving in State mental health centers, homes for persons with developmental disabilities, and veterans’ homes, as well as staff supporting the State’s corrections facilities.
  • On an emergency basis, CMS will assess, draft, and implement retention measures targeting employees at facilities that are open 24/7, which are unique and may require specialized resources. Given the financial and operational costs resulting from extensive employee turnover and unfilled positions in these vital functions, it is critical the State take as many steps as possible to address retention.
  • CMS, working with the Departments of Human Services (DHS), Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), and Corrections (DOC), is directed to leverage all existing State resources and community partnerships available. This includes expanding their recruitment teams and partnering with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) to amplify available vacancies to those individuals who are experiencing unemployment. Additionally, IDES is directed to send targeted outreach to those receiving unemployment insurance benefits or participating in the State’s Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment program.
  • CMS, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and IDES are directed to leverage existing local workforce partners to encourage additional targeted outreach intended to bolster the applicant pool of qualified candidates for State jobs. These agencies are also directed to increase virtual job fairs across State platforms to recruit new workers.

Continued efforts include:

Marketing and Recruitment for Critical Vacancies

Since taking office, Governor Pritzker’s Administration has worked to implement practices to attract talent to its workforce:

  • Revamped Hiring Processes – The State has implemented a new electronic application and hiring processes for all State positions which allows job seekers to search for and apply to jobs online, including using mobile devices. Visit to learn more about job opportunities with the State of Illinois.
  • Expanded Outreach – The Bureau of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) within CMS administers the State’s workforce diversity programs and coordinates closely with the Governor’s Office of Equity and the African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, and Native American Employment Plan Advisory Councils, made up of community activists from across the State. Over the last two years, CMS has created or participated in more than 69 outreach and recruitment events.
  • Increased Recruitment – Since the beginning of 2021, State agencies, including CMS, DVA, DHS, and DOC have participated in 549 job fairs and hiring events. Recruiting teams also met with prospective employees at the 2022 Illinois State Fair in Springfield and the State Fair in DuQuoin. Applicants are encouraged to visit the Governor’s Tent at the Illinois State Fair in DuQuoin to learn more about State employment, set up job alerts, and apply for vacancies on the spot.
  • Improved Career Counseling Services – CMS counseling staff work with internal and external candidates to evaluate their education and experience as well as employment interests/preferences, salary expectations, and geographical location to determine job titles that are the best fit for their future success. Career counselors also assist applicants with applying to State positions for which they may qualify.

Retention of Existing Staff

In addition to generous healthcare benefits, robust paid time off, including paid parental leave, and pension benefits, the State has continued to implement and enhance employee benefits and retention measures:

  • Career Mobility - Upward Mobility Program (UMP), the career mobility program administered jointly with the State’s largest labor partner, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), is designed to give State employees an opportunity to advance to more challenging, higher paying positions through targeted career counseling and direct-paid educational and training opportunities.
  • Ongoing Professional Development - CMS University, a web-based, continuing education and professional development site to assist all State employees. Through curated sessions and live events, employees can expand their knowledge or brush up on tools to support their work.
  • Be Well Illinois, the State’s employee wellness program, launched in January 2021 by CMS to improve the overall health and wellness of the State’s workforce. Be Well Illinois uses a comprehensive approach to wellness and incorporates educational resources and activities designed to improve physical, financial and mental health and raise awareness about the benefits of healthy eating, exercise and cultural topics.
  • MyBenefits Plus program, an expanded voluntary benefits program to attract prospective employees and support retirees and active employees of the State. This program includes legal services, pet, auto, home, hospital indemnity, critical illness and accident insurance offerings that complement State-sponsored programs.
  • Purchasing Power program allows employees to make major purchases such as computers, appliances, electronics and more when paying with cash or credit is not an option. Participants receive their product up front and pay over 6 or 12 months directly from their paycheck.
  • COVID-19 support programs for employees throughout the pandemic including a specialized mobile-enabled micro-website, with information about vaccinations, workplace updates, and resources guides for employees.
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Statement of AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch in response to Pritzker Administration’s hiring initiative

“We welcome Governor Pritzker’s initiative to address critical staffing shortages in state agencies where employees care for veterans, treat mental illness, support people with developmental disabilities and safely incarcerate and rehabilitate those convicted of crimes.
“Nearly 7,000 positions in state government were vacant at the start of 2022. Especially hard-hit are 24/7 facilities such as veterans’ homes, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and centers for people with developmental disabilities. Also of great concern is understaffing in the Department of Children and Family Services, which is charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect. As a result, in all of these settings, employees are burning out, safety is at risk, and overtime costs are rising.
“AFSCME members on the front lines struggle daily to provide essential services despite the challenges of working short-staffed. Earlier this month, Governor Pritzker met with a group of our local union leaders who work in these settings and could describe firsthand the difficulties they and their coworkers face.
“With today’s announcement, the Pritzker Administration is moving forward to reduce the bureaucratic delays in the state hiring process that have been so frustrating to so many, and to redouble its efforts to recruit needed new hires. In the days ahead our union will do everything possible to advance these efforts.
“AFSCME members in state government are helpers, problem solvers, people who are dedicated to serving their community. They earn a family-supporting wage, affordable health care and a pension that provides for dignity in retirement. We urge anyone looking for a good job doing good work in their community to apply.”
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