IMEC to present ‘Future of the Workforce: Training and Retaining Symposium’ March 15 at JWCC

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QUINCY — The Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center has partnered with John Wood Community College, Knapheide, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Defense Network to present the “Future of the Workforce: Training and Retaining” symposium on March 15-16 at John Wood Community College and Knapheide in Quincy.

Participants will learn about viable solutions to overcome workforce issues, including recruiting and retaining strong talent. The symposium will include a roundtable led by industry experts, breakout sessions and a tour of Knapheide’s facilities.

The “Future of the Workforce: Training and Retaining” symposium will begin with opening remarks from IMEC, IMA and John Wood Community College.

Following the opening remarks, presenters and discussion leaders will be:

  • Paola Velasquez (director of DEI in Manufacturing, IMEC),
  • Sarah Hartwick (vice president of education and workforce policy at IMA and the executive director of the IMA Education Foundation),
  • Blanche Shoup (director of the Workforce Office of Western Illinois),
  • Chris Russell (vice president of operations, Knapheide)
  • Jeremy Smith (technical specialist, IMEC), and
  • Angelika Nowosadko (technical tpecialist, IMEC).

Topics covered during the symposium include retention, workforce development, continuous improvement, automation and company culture. Lunch will be provided.

The symposium will be at John Wood Community College in the auditorium, 1301 S 48th on March 15. and at Knapheide Manufacturing Company, 1848 Westphalia Strasse, on Marth 16.

Below is the tentative schedule for the symposium:

March 15

  • 8:30-9:30 a.m.: Registration
  • 9:30-10:30 a.m.: Welcome – IMEC, IMA, and John Wood Community College
  • 10:30 a.m.-noon: Best Practices for Training and Retaining – Roundtable
  • noon-1 p.m.: Lunch and Networking
  • 1-3:10 p.m.: Breakout Groups
  • 1-2 p.m.: Breakout Session 1
    A. Fostering DEI to Elevate Company Culture and Drive Advancements Across Your Organization – Paola Velasquez (Director of DEI in Manufacturing, IMEC
    B. The Importance of Education and Community of Future Makers and How Focusing on the Next Generation Can Solve Workforce Gaps – Sarah Hartwick (vice president of Education and Workforce Policy and executive director of the IMA Education Foundation)
  • 2:10-3:10 p.m.: Breakout Session 2
    A. Implementing Lean to Solve Workforce Challenges – Jeremy Smith (technical specialist, IMEC)
    B. Retaining Your Workforce in 2023 – Angelika Nowosadko (technical specialist, IMEC)
  • 3:20- 4 p.m.: Q&A

March 16:

9-10:30 a.m. – Knapheide Tour / Automation Speaker

For more information and to register, visit or find it on the IMEC Events Calendar at

IMEC is a team of improvement specialists dedicated to changing lives and creating a positive impact on Illinois’ workforce and economy. With a mission to drive growth through enterprise excellence, they help organizations become more effective and efficient by identifying issues, developing and implementing solutions and providing the necessary support that will allow them to excel in areas of leadership, strategy, customer engagement, operations, workforce, and measurement and results.

IMEC assisted more than 1,600 companies in 2021 and helped create or retain over 5,679 jobs, resulting in more than $450 million aggregate impact to the Illinois economy.  IMEC has seven offices statewide and 48 full-time industry improvement specialists. For more information, visit

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