The Illinois Manufacturers' Association continued its statewide Manufacturing Matters Illinois tour Wednesday in Carbondale.
The tour is designed to highlight a new study about the role manufacturing plays in the Illinois economy.
During a stop at Intertape Polymer Group, association CEO Mark Denzler said nearly 600-thousand people are employed in the industry statewide, but over half are aging baby boomers who are going to retire in the next 10-15 years.
"So, we're going to need to replace 300,000 people. Roughly, 20,000 production workers and 3,000-5,000 engineers every year over the next decade just to remain constant."
Denzler says nearly 41-thousand people are employed directly or indirectly by manufacturing in southern Illinois.
Aaron Christ is operations manager at Intertape Polymer. He said his firm is reaching out to young people in the area.
"There are employees that have been here and leaders that have been here and understand our business and our industry very well. We're now trying to pull in new people and young people."
Denzler said manufacturing is thriving in this modern, high-tech era.
"They're no longer the dark, dirty and dangerous (places) that people thought about decades ago. They're great opportunities for young students coming out of high school, returning veterans, dislocated workers. There are a lot of jobs available."
State Representative Terri Bryant said the new state budget reflects the importance placed on vocational training.
"There's a component of the budget that also includes internships and those internships we hope will kind of fold into the manufacturing industry as we go forward."
Lawmakers approved a bill to study using the closed Tamms Correctional Center as a vocational training facility.