Greater Peoria Essential Abilities and Knowledge (GPEAK)

Portrait of Heather Penczak

Heather Penczak

Director of Innovation and Implementation

To stabilize and grow the local economy, employers, educators, and community-based organizations in Peoria have embraced the State’s goal to ensure 60% of their population attains the postsecondary certifications and degrees needed to obtain gainful employment. Community partners joined the Illinois 60 by 25 Network to advance that goal and began exploring ways to locally implement the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, including teaching, measuring, and certifying the 10 essential employability competencies.

Their result is the Greater Peoria Essential Abilities and Knowledge (GPEAK) system, which is being piloted in the 20-21 school year and released more widely following the pilot. GPEAK is a partnership between Illinois Central College, the CEO Council’s Regional Workforce Development Alliance, the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Illinois Community College Board, JFF, and EdSystems. These groups came together with the goal of translating the state’s 10 competencies into a practical system to prepare individuals for meaningful and fulfilling careers. The system evolved into a free and open online platform available to students, education systems, community-based agencies, and employers in the region that provides certification to individuals who have demonstrated mastery of an essential workforce skill.

Our Role

The first step in the process was to bring more than 85 community members from diverse employers and organizations to the table to establish a common language and shared understanding. Over a five-month period, EdSystems planned and facilitated a series of meetings to discuss the competencies, create detailed descriptions, and determine how to test when those competencies had been achieved. The team brought in NIU’s Center for P-20 Engagement to design a curriculum applicable for both youth and adult learners.

GPEAK’s curricular resources and assessments are built onto the already existing Illinois workNet platform, which is already familiar to many Peoria area organizations and is very simple and user-friendly on the mentor/employer side. For the individual, the platform provides a full dashboard with a wealth of resources as well as virtual badges to demonstrate their achievements. 

Now in a pilot phase, the GPEAK curriculum will soft launch in February 2021. EdSystems will continue to evaluate assessments and evidence from the pilot sites and adjust materials and processes through the soft launch. The team will share the model and learnings with other regional partners across Illinois.

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