Automation World - Dec. 9, 2015 | Original article

By Aaron Hand

Asked recently how he can continue to develop beneficial programs while his dashboard lights up with the destructive dark side of crises, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted that any challenge must be seen as an opportunity to move forward. That was a few days before Thanksgiving, before he found himself under fire—people calling for his resignation because of the way the city and police department handled the police shooting of black teen Laquan McDonald a year ago.

Nonetheless, during his time as mayor, Emanuel has looked at the challenges facing his city and developed programs to turn those challenges around. One of those challenges was what he saw as an education system that was not preparing the workers of tomorrow for an ever-advancing manufacturing industry.

Emanuel is concerned that the U.S. as a country has not updated its education or infrastructure to adapt to a changing world. “Our educational system stops at 12th grade, and yet the jobs of tomorrow require a minimum of two years beyond,” he said during an event just before Thanksgiving called Bold Bets: Future of Manufacturing.

Emanuel is trying to create a city with the best-trained, best-educated workforce. Making reference to a federal system of job training programs that has not only been confusing but has led local systems to be similarly confusing, Emanuel said Chicago set out to systematically consolidate its programs—to “make it easy, make it simple, make it relevant.”

Chicago has seven community colleges—the second most in the country. Each school is focused on the most promising areas for jobs, Emanuel said, and they’ve asked the related industries to help design the curriculum to teach what they need.

A high school degree might’ve gotten you somewhere in your career 20 years ago, but that’s not the case today, Emanuel said. “It’s clear today that everybody is going to need two years of post-high school education.”

That’s what Chicago is trying to address with its Chicago Star Scholarship, which aims to ensure the city’s workforce has at least a 14th-grade education. “We will always go right if we invest in our people,” Emanuel said.

Through the Chicago Star Scholarship, which was launched a little over a year ago, City Colleges of Chicago provides tuition, fee and book waivers to qualifying high school graduates to help them get an associate degree with no out-of-pocket costs.

“You get a B average in Chicago public schools, and community college is free. Cost will not be a prohibitive factor,” Emanuel said. “We’re going to a pre-K to college model. If we can be a city where everybody has a minimum of 14th-grade level, Chicago will win. There’s no way China or India or Germany will beat us.”

Emanuel—who had just returned from a quick trip to Guangzhou, China, where he attended the annual forum U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade—had some insights into the challenge of losing jobs to developing nations like China.

“At one level China is a competitor, but there’s nothing that they’re doing that if we don’t do it right here, we can not only compete, but win,” Emanuel emphasized. “China won’t eat our lunch if we do our homework right. But if we don’t do our homework, there’s no guarantee.”

Chicago is working to get it right, developing programs to help fill the skills gap so often referenced in the manufacturing industry. Aurora University, for example, in the Chicago suburbs, created a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program to get kids interested at a younger age, noted Illinois state senator Linda Holmes, also during the Bold Bets event in Chicago.

Aurora University created a STEM partnership school—a “completely new concept,” Holmes said—to help bridge the obvious disconnect between students unable to find jobs and employers unable to find qualified workers. The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, located on the university’s campus, is for students in third through eighth grades. It develops not only the students, but also the teachers. The school is staffed through a professional development strategy that has teachers from the partner districts as faculty while they complete Aurora’s graduate coursework in math and science education.

“The school then pairs up with local businesses. The businesses not only help the school in the financial aspect, but also create the curriculum,” Holmes explained. “Now the students are actually learning the skills they need for jobs. I think it’s very promising.”

There are too many students finishing high school who are not properly prepared to start college, and that’s a problem Chicago and the country as a whole needs to acknowledge, said Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

Ramirez described a Chicago-area high school program aimed at better preparing students for success in college and career opportunities. Created in a high school that had closed on Chicago’s west side, Austin Polytech Academy (APA) was founded by Chicago Public Schools and the Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council about eight years ago. The school works with Manufacturing Connect on engineering and machining courses to help students apply their skills to real-world work experiences with local manufacturers.

The students are getting their high school educations, but also NIMS certification, Ramirez pointed out. To top it off, the school is also in session at night to help train parents to better compete in the workforce as well. “This is working. The scalability is completely possible,” he said. “This is going to come down to political wherewithal.”

The discussion at the Bold Bets event also turned to the increasingly technical nature of manufacturing. The days of just making widgets are over, Emanuel said, and manufacturing has become not just a job, but a career. “We need to prepare the city to advance in advanced manufacturing.”

He pointed in particular to UI Labs, a research and commercialization collaborative that has set up its headquarters on Chicago’s Goose Island. “It makes Chicago the center of digital research,” Emanuel said. “It’s going to create a backbone of research.”

Manufacturing generates more data than any other sector of the economy, according to Bill King, Andersen chair in engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and co-director of the Illinois Advanced Manufacturing Institute. “When we talk to manufacturing leaders and ask them how much of their data they use, it’s very little of it—1 or 2 percent,” said King, who was also the founding CTO at UI Labs’ Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII). “This is a huge opportunity for data as an asset.”

It also means that—despite the idea that robots are taking away U.S. manufacturing jobs—the workforce is as relevant as ever. “Manufacturing digitization makes knowledge workers more important,” King said. “It is a really exciting time to be a technology person. We know what it looks like when there’s a sector of the economy that becomes digitized. They’re very excited to bring new technologies and new business models to bear.”

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State Senator Linda HolmesKendall County NOW - Dec. 2, 2015 | Original article

By Mark Fitton and Greg Bishop


SPRINGFIELD – A task force aimed at the Illinois local government glut began shaping its report to the governor and legislature two weeks ago as members approved nine proposals.


The task force, appointed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and led by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, includes state legislators, local government and education officials and others.

State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, cast two “no” votes and two present votes on the last four items, which are the ones expected to draw the most scrutiny from legislative Democrats. Holmes’ district includes northeastern Kendall County, including portions of Oswego and Montgomery.

Holmes, the lone Democratic lawmaker voting in this task force session, said she thinks the group has “fostered a lot of good discussion, so I think that’s definitely a positive.”

Still, Holmes said, she’s not entirely comfortable with all the items on the group’s agenda.

“Let’s be completely blunt here,” she said. “I think in some cases,  some of these items are bleeding over into this administration’s goal of eliminating the powers of organized labor.”

She said she wonders if those items involving collective bargaining are “more items on the governor’s turnaround agenda than … specific to the unfunded mandates and government consolidations committee.”

The group – formally the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force – intends to finish its report in December.

For the full article, go to Kendall County NOW.

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Holmes meets with superintendentsSenator Holmes held a meeting at her Aurora office Monday with area superintendents and State Reps. Linda Chapa LaVia and Stephanie Kifowit.

Dr. Jeff Craig, Dr. Michael Popp, Dr. Matthew Wendt, Dr. Karen Sullivan, and Dr. José Torres were invited. Participants discussed unfunded mandates and other budgeting challenges facing their school districts. Senator Holmes is planning a similar meeting in January.

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Associated Press - Nov. 29, 2015 | Original article via Chicago Sun-Times

By Sara Burnett

On the campaign trail and in his first weeks in office, Gov. Bruce Rauner pledged to save taxpayers money by eliminating some of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government — a piece of his legislative agenda with rare bipartisan support.

Now a task force the Republican governor named to put that idea in motion is preparing to present its final recommendations. Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, the commission’s chairwoman, says its suggestions could make government more efficient and effective if the Legislature and Rauner choose to implement them.

“At the end of the day the savings are going to be huge,” she said.

But some task force members say the year-long process is being tainted by a push to include anti-union provisions that are among Rauner’s top priorities, and that politics could prevent progress on yet another issue before Illinois lawmakers.

Here’s a closer look at the task force and what’s coming next:


From townships to park districts to counties, Illinois has more units of government than any other state. The state with the second-highest number — Texas — has about 1,800 fewer units.

Rauner said Illinois’ “unnecessary layers of government” led to waste, high taxes and the opportunity for corruption. In February, he issued an executive order creating the task force, whose roughly two dozen members include legislators and local government officials, and tasked them with finding ways to consolidate.

Rauner also asked the group to look at the unfunded mandates the state has imposed on local governments and recommend which ones should be repealed to reduce costs.

Since then the group has held about a dozen meetings statewide, inviting local leaders to speak about changes they think could streamline government.

The task force has voted on dozens of proposals that will likely be part of their final report, which is due Dec. 31.


GOP state Rep. Mark Batinick, a member of the task force, says some of the proposals they’re considering may seem small, but “the small things add up to big things.”

Take a state mandate regarding oil changes for government-owned vehicles. State rules require the oil to be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, Batinick said. That’s true even if the vehicle or the oil being used has a recommended range of 7,500 miles — meaning that over several years, government could be spending thousands of dollars on oil changes that aren’t needed.

Batinick would like to see that rule eliminated.

The task force also is recommending eliminating a requirement that governments pay to put public notices in local newspapers if those same notices are available online, among others.


To reduce layers of government, the group wants to impose a four-year moratorium on new governments and give Illinois voters the ability to dissolve or consolidate governments through a referendum. Passing such a ballot measure would require a three-fifths vote — the same as amending the Illinois Constitution.

It also wants to expand a 2013 law that allowed DuPage County to consolidate units within its borders, giving the same authority to all 102 counties. Since the law passed, DuPage County has dissolved a fire protection and a sanitary district.

Rep. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat, says the key is letting local areas decide rather than using a “blanket approach.”

“What might work in Aurora may not be the same thing that works in Decatur,” she said.

Read more ...

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