Peoria Regional Partners Launch Essential Skills Program Pilot: GPEAK

Illinois Central College, in partnership with Peoria’s CEO Council and Regional Workforce Alliance, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), Jobs for the Future, and Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University (EdSystems), announces the launch of Greater Peoria Essential Abilities and Knowledge (GPEAK). GPEAK prepares individuals for fulfilling careers and meaningful employment by certifying essential workforce skill attainment.    

“We are pleased to pilot this certification system this fall that was developed regionally by over 70 company and agency participants and launch the full program in January,” said ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey. “GPEAK will measure an individual’s demonstration of essential skills and knowledge needed for entering the workforce. It encourages participants to reflect on their growth and development of essential skills; validate and communicate this information in a manner recognized by employers across the greater Peoria region; and serve our community with a free and open platform available to students, education systems, community-based agencies and employers in the region.” 

The GPEAK system will also provide students with resources including time with mentors, workshop activities, individually guided resources, case studies, self-inventories, and a range of activities and videos.   

It is founded on the state’s top 10 Essential Employability Competencies and regionally defined Key Performance Indicators. Competencies, like teamwork, adaptability, cultural competence, and more, serve as quality guidelines for an individual’s readiness to enter an industry or to pursue further education. Key performance indicators then provide a common approach to validate the competencies acquired through each work-based learning experience and provide consistent methods for measuring and communicating what individuals learned.  

“The GPEAK certification system was developed thanks to a broad collaboration of regional stakeholder groups that included cross-sector industry, community, and education leadership,” says Heather Penczak, Policy & Program Manager at EdSystems. “These working groups provided valuable insight into local demands as well as developmentally-appropriate expectations to ensure GPEAK will support individuals as they work to gain the essential employability competencies. The greater Peoria region is an impressive model for bringing diverse stakeholders together to develop an aligned system that will ultimately drive and influence work throughout the region.” 

“We anticipate GPEAK will provide high-quality opportunities for individuals that lead to meaningful and sustainable careers,” adds Jon Furr, Executive Director of EdSystems. “As the launch of GPEAK demonstrates, strong state policy supports such as the Essential Employability Competencies can be utilized to drive meaningful change within a region.”

The new system is a major outcome of the Regional Workforce Alliance, comprised of 70 community businesses, community-based organizations and educational partners, and the statewide Workforce Equity Initiative program, in which ICC oversees 14 other Illinois community colleges.   

For more information or to participate as a pilot site, please contact ICC Workforce Equity Project Director Dawn Koeltzow at

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