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U. of I., Illinois chamber starting certification program for HR managers


Jan Dennis, Business & Law Editor

Jean Drasgow
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Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Jean Drasgow is the assistant director of the Center for Human Resource Management, which is working with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce to start a new certification program to sharpen the skills of human resource managers across the state.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — More than 9,300 Illinois companies were investigated last year for alleged labor law violations, sparked by employee complaints about problems ranging from wages and overtime to workplace safety.

Many problems likely could have been averted if human resource practitioners were better trained in the often complex nuances of federal and state labor regulations, says Jean Drasgow, assistant director of the Center for Human Resource Management at the University of Illinois.

To help plug the gap, the center is working with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce to start a new certification program to sharpen the skills of human resource managers across the state.

The Illinois HR Excellence program will offer a series of daylong workshops in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign on a variety of topics, from hiring and diversity to understanding federal and state employment laws.

“Complying with federal and Illinois law is very difficult and it can be very complex,” Drasgow said. “There’s no black and white. The laws are written in such a way that they don’t tell you how to do everything, so this can help with those gray areas.”

The program, which will host its first workshops this fall, will help refresh the skills of managers, and will be especially valuable for managers at smaller companies who may have little or no formal training or a degree in an unrelated field, Drasgow said.

“It’s not uncommon for someone to go from bookkeeping to payroll to broader HR responsibilities in a small business,” said Gloria Guy, vice president for business services with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. “These courses will provide background and confidence to those with experience, but no formal education in HR issues.”

The program will award certificates to managers who complete a series of core courses and electives, including projects that tackle a real-life issues, such as problems finding or retaining employees.

“Those projects will provide a direct benefit for the employer and also give the students hands-on practice with the tools they learned,” Drasgow said.

Some managers may choose to take specific workshops rather than pursuing a certificate, Drasgow said. Workshops will be taught by U. of I. faculty members, select doctoral students and experienced professionals and will cost about $500 each, with a discount for those who register for multiple workshops.

The new certification program could ultimately make Illinois a better place to work and do business, Drasgow and state chamber officials say.

“I think better HR practices will lead to good business practices. That, in turn, will lead to more profitability, better wages and more jobs,” Drasgow said. “More importantly, maybe employees will just be happier to go to work.”

For more information, call Drasgow at 217-333-0981, Julie Brennan of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce at 217-522-5512 or visit the program’s Web site at

Editor’s note: To contact Jean Drasgow, call 217-333-0981;