Lake Land College responds to economic needs in central Illinois through community college consortium
As part of a regional consortium of community colleges, industry leaders and community supporters, Lake Land College is working toward addressing a nationally growing workforce issue – 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs throughout the United States.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, approximately 12 million men and women work in manufacturing throughout the country and this number could increase substantially over the coming years. However, many individuals in today’s workforce lack the advanced skills needed for a modern manufacturing workplace.
“The local labor force does not have all of the technical skills necessary for some of the technical positions that we have open,” said Steven Duval, corporate general manager for North American Lighting in Paris, Ill., which hopes to expand its operations and hire an additional 300 employees. “Generally, we see a lack of technical and mathematical skills needed to perform the technical positions that we have available.”
In response to this growing concern, the consortium known as the Eastern Central Illinois Consortium for Advanced Technology Careers Hub (eciCATCH), which includes Lake Land College, Richland Community College, Parkland College, Danville Area Community College, Kaskaskia College, Illinois Eastern Community Colleges and a variety of area industry leaders proposes to create a comprehensive workforce and workforce pipeline which reflects advanced technology market needs within central Illinois.
The three main goals of the eciCATCH team are to: implement an accelerated-gain system of nationally portable, industry recognized skills and credentials; promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) educational fundamentals which will assist the workforce in embracing and adapting to new technologies in manufacturing; and establish a platform where employers can search for highly skilled workers.
According to the team for the U.S. to remain competitive within manufacturing, it must attract, develop and retain a skilled manufacturing workforce. To that end, the group plans to target unemployed, underemployed or dislocated workers, veterans, adult education learners, high school students, and others seeking education and training necessary for obtaining employment in the manufacturing industry.
Duval said that for North American Lighting, the need for employees to possess technical skills is critical and immediate. Specifically, the company seeks employees with mechanical abilities and technical math skills.
“Most companies within the area are in the same boat and the current number of people coming out of technical programs isn’t filling the current demand,” explained Duval.
East Central Illinois Development Corporation (ECIDC) has been facilitating region-wide strategic planning to bring together the community college consortium as well as representatives from manufacturing and the industrial technology sector, multiple economic development groups, regional planning commissions, workforce development entities and many more development stakeholders.
The consortium has applied for funding through the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program to advance the consortium’s goals, requesting $8.3 million in funding to advance technical trades training and related programs in east central Illinois. Richland Community College is serving as the lead grant applicant. The grant award announcement is anticipated for late September.
To learn more about the eciCATCH team and its initiatives, visit the ECIDC’s website at http://www.ecidc.com/. To learn more about how Lake Land College and its contributions to workforce development in the region, visit www.lakelandcollege.edu.