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Lake Land College’s power plant programs offer sustainable, local employment for graduates

 The electricity industry is about ready to undergo some big changes throughout central Illinois. While electricity rates and consumption won’t change over the next three to five years, the demand for highly qualified employees who are looking for a long-term career will.

 “There is going to be a very high demand for power plant mechanics and technicians within 100 miles of Coles County in the next few years,” said Tim VanDyke, chair of the Technology Division at Lake Land College. “Most of the guys working in the industry now have been there for 30 or 40 years and are getting ready to retire. Once the baby boomers move into retirement, companies like Ameren will look to fill those positions.”  

 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a power plant mechanic or technician is over $65,000 annually. In many instances, student interns who are studying to be a mechanic or technician can make $20 an hour, with no experience.

 Such was the case for 2011 power plant mechanic graduate Ash Cook, originally from Mattoon, who made $19 an hour as an intern through Midwest Generation in Pekin.

 According to Cook, after a three-month internship with the company, he was hired full-time as an equipment operator and now makes $31 an hour.

 “The transition from school to the workforce was surprisingly easy for me,” said Cook. “The education I received at Lake Land prepared me to be an active and important team member, even as an intern, and when I was done with the internship, it only took me 11 days to get hired full-time.”

 For Clint Groves of Charleston, who will complete his power plant technology degree at the end of this spring semester, it took him one week to find full-time employment, from the time he started sending out resumes. Groves will graduate from Lake Land on May 17 and will start work with DTE Energy in Tuscola on May 20.

 “I feel very fortunate to have found a good paying job in this area,” said Groves. “I have a three-year-old son, so moving away from the area was just not an option. Plus, with the job at DTE Energy, I will get a huge pay increase compared to where I was working before I came back to school.”

The Power Plant Mechanic program is designed to prepare graduates for employment in power generation facilities.  The program focuses on multiple welding processes, machining and mechanical systems associated with power generation facilities.  Graduates of this program will function as skilled technicians performing installation, troubleshooting, maintenance and repair of mechanical systems employed in the production of electric power.

Power Plant Technology graduates perform installation and maintenance functions on instrumentation and control equipment in electric utility power plants, and other related industries.  Job responsibilities include installation, calibration, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair of communications systems, motor controls, programmable logic controllers, pneumatic and hydraulic equipment, and HVAC systems. Upon successful completion of the program, students are prepared for entry-level employment in the utility industry as instrument control technicians or electrical repairmen in a power generation facility or related industry.

For more information about the Power Plant Mechanic and Power Plant Technology degrees, contact VanDyke at (217) 234-5313 or

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