To stabilize and grow the local economy, employers, educators, and community-based organizations in Peoria have embraced Illinois’ goal to ensure that 60% of adults attain the postsecondary certifications and degrees needed to obtain gainful employment. Community partners joined the Illinois Education and Career Success Network and began exploring ways to locally implement the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, including teaching, measuring, and certifying the 10 Essential Employability Competencies.
The result is the Greater Peoria Essential Abilities and Knowledge (GPEAK) system, which was piloted in the 2020–21 school year and released more widely following the pilot. GPEAK is a partnership between Illinois Central College, CEO Council’s Regional Workforce Development Alliance, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Illinois Community College Board, and EdSystems. With the support of JFF, these groups came together with the goal of translating the state’s ten 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 that provides certification to individuals who have demonstrated mastery of an essential workforce skill.
The first step in designing GPEAK 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 five months, 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 for both youth and adult learners.
EdSystems continues to be a critical thought partner for GPEAK in the following efforts:
- Examine and adapt existing resources based on feedback and develop instructional videos and detailed lesson plans for utilizing GPEAK resources in the classroom.
- Engagement with high schools in the Peoria region on how GPEAK can be a resource for efforts in work-based learning and addressing components of the PaCE framework.
- Launch of a more user-friendly website for schools, community-based organizations, and employers to access GPEAK resources and materials.
As the GPEAK system becomes more regionally recognized throughout the greater Peoria region, there will be an increased focus on identifying and developing currency for participants with GPEAK competency badges and certifications. Illinois Central College is currently building out a process to connect badge earners with contacts at interested organizations to complete Informational Interviews or learn more about open positions. Additional regions are now piloting the use of GPEAK outside the Peoria region. To support the expansion, we are hosting a community of practice with Rockford Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago, and Peoria Regional Learning Center to share resources and best practices. Rockford Public Schools launched its version of the badging system in the 2022–23 school year.