The Parkland College Blog

Parkland College, in collaboration with the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, the University of Illinois Research Park, regional manufacturers, and community partners, has submitted a bid to become the site of a $7.5 million manufacturing training academy through a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Governor JB Pritzker announced the program in Champaign County in late October during a tour of local of manufacturers.

Focused on meeting the emerging training and workforce demands of Illinois manufacturers, the academy will leverage the assets of the Champaign-Urbana community to grow the manufacturing talent pipeline, provide hands-on training in advanced skills, and assist manufacturers from across the region in scaling emerging technologies. Training opportunities will include advanced skills in machining, robotics and programmable logic controllers (PLC), and advanced manufacturing in addition to the core elements of manufacturing already available, such as welding.

“Community colleges are vehicles and engines of economic growth and vitality for our communities and our state,” said Parkland president Dr. Thomas Ramage. “Parkland is well-positioned to be the site of this strategic investment due to the track record of success in scaling regional training programs like the Parkland Institute of Aviation, Ford ASSET program, and the Midwest Center for Precision Agriculture. Proximity to and collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ensures that the AMTA will continually have access to the innovations and technology that will shape the future of manufacturing.”

Laura Frerichs, Executive Director of the University of Illinois Research Park says she agrees that locating the Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy in Champaign-Urbana would provide a strategic advantage to scaling new companies stemming from the latest research and development taking place at the University.

“One of the challenges of scaling a research and development startup company is the transition from prototype to scalable product,” said Frerichs. “While the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has technologists to invent disruptive and innovative products, its spinout companies need makers to build them. This academy will provide startups with a workforce that can replicate products with quality standards and customer satisfaction in mind, using advanced techniques such as increased automation. The Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy project will fill a critical gap in our community and allow our companies to scale and grow right here in Illinois.”

Building the Workforce Pipeline Through Awareness

Another central focus of the AMTA will be cultivating a pipeline of students to meet the expanding high-tech workforce demands in Central Illinois. As part of the AMTA, an advanced manufacturing “maker space” will be developed as a vital outreach tool to engage K-12 students and promote advanced manufacturing career pathways.

Parkland’s long-standing partnership with Education for Employment (EFE) System #330 and regional school districts will enable collaborative recruitment efforts.

The college will also build on the strong network of community partnerships and recruitment activities developed through the college’s Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) program funded by the Illinois Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant to reach underrepresented populations.

Whether or not the facility project is funded, Ramage says the college is committed to addressing the workforce pipeline.

“We are committed to continuing to serve manufacturers and help young people understand the rewarding, high-tech careers in manufacturing that exist locally and regionally,” said Ramage. “We don’t want individuals to miss out on the opportunities to pursue their goals and support their families because there is a lack of awareness of what it means to work in manufacturing.”

Meeting the Needs of Industry

The college will utilize a flexible training model to meet the needs of working students and employers, allowing them to access advanced training without the need to relocate. Ramage says that collaboration with the other community colleges in the region will be key and that the model opens opportunities for highly customized training and upskilling for the existing workforce as well as new students.

In order to design a comprehensive academy model that meets the needs of manufacturers, Parkland turned to local employers like Litania Sports Group to understand their needs for training as well as an expanded workforce pipeline.

“The prospect of having a Manufacturing Training Academy in our community is an investment in our regional workforce and a stabilizer for manufacturers in the area,” said Mary McGrew, VP of Human Resources at Litania Sports Group. “We struggle to find qualified workers to hold full-time jobs. We can send existing employees to the AMTA for skills enhancement to meet our changing technology. We can also work with the program to develop talent for students who want to start their career sooner, and less costly, than a four-year degree will allow. East central Illinois is home to some impressive manufacturing companies and the AMTA is a resource that can keep these companies competitive on a national level well into the future.”

The lessons learned from these focused conversations with employers provided some forecasting on future shifts in the industry and how workforce training will need to rise to meet that challenge.

“Manufacturing is a primary economic driver that requires responsive educational support,” said Dr. Justin Arnold, Director of Workforce Development for the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission. “Parkland’s AMTA proposed project will ensure the workforce is ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Manufacturing has radically transformed over the past generation. We need Parkland’s AMTA to help employers train our workforce in automation, coding, robotics, and other advanced skills.”

The placement of the AMTA at Parkland College will also have a broader impact on the regional economy. “The proposed Advanced Manufacturing Training Academy (AMTA) at Parkland College will expand opportunities for short- and long-term skills training, boost retention of manufacturers in our region, and attract more investment to Illinois,” said Carly McCrory-McKay, Executive Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.

“Focused on meeting the emerging training and workforce demands of our area manufacturers, the academy will leverage the strong assets of the Champaign County region to grow the manufacturing talent pipeline, provide hands-on training in advanced skills, and assist manufacturers from across the region in scaling emerging technologies. We look forward to working with Parkland College and workforce development partners across the state of Illinois to encourage more people to explore the possibilities of modern manufacturing, gain the skills necessary for careers in the 21st century, and retrain workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

State-of-the-Art Training Facility

If awarded, the Parkland Manufacturing Training Academy would be built as an expansion of the Parkhill Applied Technology Center, located on the northwest corner of the college’s campus. The Parkhill Applied Technology Center currently houses the college’s manufacturing and automotive programs, including an existing American Welding Society (AWS) Accredited Test Facility welding lab.

The 10,000 square foot AMTA, designed in collaboration with Urbana-based firm IGW Architecture, will include:

  • a robotics/programmable logic controllers (PLCs) lab outfitted with the latest technology and equipment

  • new tool and die training program and dedicated lab

  • two demonstration labs for both academic and community/youth programming, including the manufacturing “maker space”

  • newly equipped CNC machining lab to support advanced skills training

  • newly equipped CAD/CAM classroom

The college should learn later this spring whether it is awarded the grant and whether the facility project will move forward.

 

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New Apprenticeship Program Seeks to Fill Employment Gap

New Surveyor and Mapping Technician Training Program at Parkland

 

   A new apprenticeship program taking place at Parkland College is looking for more students to train as surveyor and mapping technicians to fill a growing job demand.   

Developed in partnership with the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association (IPLSA), the first-in-the-nation Surveyor and Mapping Technician Training Program is a two-year, U.S. Department of Labor-recognized apprenticeship program in which apprentices train to become surveyor technicians. These technicians assist professional land surveyors in collecting information about boundaries, terrain and property lines.

Once admitted to the program, apprentices begin a 90-day, no fault probationary period in which the apprentice or the employer can terminate participation without repercussion.

Training consists of on-the-job learning blended with online coursework and 13 in-person labs provided by Parkland College. Apprentices are expected to take and pass the Certified Survey Technician (CST) Level I or Level II exam in order to complete the program.

During the program, apprentices are paid a minimum of $15 per hour. Upon successful completion, the apprentice is guaranteed employment and a minimum salary of $17 per hour. Program graduates also have the option to continue their education and become fully licensed surveyors. All instruction provided by Parkland College may be applied toward a bachelor’s degree.

Employers who participate in the Surveyor and Mapping Technician Training Program are required to pay for the education-related expenses. Employers are eligible to receive tax credits for their expenses through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) new Apprenticeship Education Expense Tax Credit Program. Employers must apply to DCEO to be eligible to take part in the tax credit program, which is currently capped at $5 million annually.

The inaugural class started at the end of August. IPLSA is currently taking applications for next year’s class, set to start at the end of August, according to IPLSA Executive Director Kim Robinson.

“It’s really exciting to see this come to fruition,” Robinson said. “This is something that we have been working on for two years now. We’ve heard from our members that they are facing serious workforce shortages. This program is designed to fill that void. Other states have heard about what we’re doing and now they’re looking into starting their own apprenticeship programs.”

“The apprenticeship program is off to a great start,” said Jeff Rohde, a surveyor at Willett Hofmann & Associates. “This program will give employees the knowledge they need to get up to speed faster.” Willett Hofmann Apprentice Travis Keller agrees. “The apprenticeship program has been a huge benefit for me. Our instructor does a very nice job helping us work through problems and is always available to provide guidance on anything that’s confusing."

The growing national shortage of both surveyors and technicians is expected to continue. The surveying profession is confronting a wave of retirements in the coming years, and both new surveyors and technicians will be needed to keep pace with demand.

Potential apprentices can upload their resume for free by visiting the apprenticeship page on IPLSA’s website. Employers can upload job postings for apprentices there as well.

IPLSA is a not-for-profit organization representing the interests of the surveying profession in Illinois. Their mission includes the advancement of the land surveying profession by promoting high standards of practice and conduct, by upholding the Illinois Land Surveyors Act and by supporting and encouraging members through continuing education, professional association, and the use of current technology.

To learn more about the Surveyor and Mapping Technician Training Program, please visit IPLSA's website at iplsa.org, or email apprentice@iplsa.org.

  

Parkland College to Receive Mercedes-Benz Car Donation

Automotive Technology program receives generous donation from Mercedes-Benz

Parkland College's Automotive Technology program has received a generous donation from Mercedes-Benz USA in the form of a vehicle for use as an instructional aid within a recently established training partnership.

Parkland received the 2017 E300 luxury sedan in early August as part of the Mercedes-Benz Technician Training and Development Program. Mercedes-Benz USA expanded its training and development programs in recent years to combat the shortage of qualified automotive technicians in the US.

The donation will allow Parkland College's Automotive Technology and Motorsport students to complete up to 20 Mercedes-Benz certifications while in the program, according to Parkland Transportation Faculty Chair Jon Ross.

"The Transportation Programs at Parkland College are excited to be able to offer the training in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz USA," said Ross. "The donation by Mercedes-Benz USA reinforces the quality and reputation of our automotive training program. We have a long relationship with our local Mercedes-Benz service center, Sullivan-Parkhill Imports. This new partnership will enhance the opportunity for students to enter the workplace with additional certifications that our employers are looking for."

Students in the program will also be able to:

  • Receive exposure to innovative Mercedes-Benz technologies and products

  • Develop a skill set for success as a Mercedes-Benz Registered Technician and beyond

  • Earn a potential internship at a Mercedes-Benz dealership

  • Gain experience on the latest equipment in the industry

  • Receive basic to intermediate technical training from campus instructors

  • Complete the online course and in-dealer internship to earn their Registered Technician Certification

For more information on the Automotive Technology program and the Mercedes-Benz training program, please email jross@parkland.edu.

[Image from Sullivan-Parkhill Imports, Inc.]

PRECS Funded For Three More Years

PRECS has been funded for another three-year cycle

A summer science experience for US community college students at Parkland College has received National Science Foundation funding for a new three-year cycle.

The 10-week PRECS program, or Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students, will host 10 students for each summer during 2020-2022. During this new cycle, the student stipend has been increased to $6,000 for the 10-week program.

The program involves a boot camp at Parkland College in Champaign that prepares students for the research immersion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. PRECS focuses on phenotypic plasticity, the phenomenon of a single genotype producing multiple phenotypes depending on environment, and includes research areas as diverse as the interaction between genotype and ozone pollution on maize, the effect of environmental stress on neuroanatomy, and the interactions of genes and environment on fish behavior. 

Originally funded by a three-year grant (#1559908/1559929) from the National Science Foundation, PRECS ran during the summers of 2017-2019. During this time, PRECS hosted a total of 32 students from across the country (IL, NJ, MA, MD, MO, CO, NC, PA, CA), including six Parkland students. PRECS participants have gone on to continue their academic career at their home community colleges and to transfer to four-year institutions. Two PRECS participants are currently pursuing graduate programs, according to Dr. Britt Carlson, program director and chemistry associate professor at Parkland.

"Many PRECS participants secured research positions after completing PRECS, and in three cases, these research positions were in their PRECS host labs," Carlson said. "Participants have attended national conferences and presented their research." Scientific posters created during PRECS for the IL Summer Research Symposium and videos of past participants can be found at https://spark.parkland.edu/precs_research/

Parkland alum and PRECS 2017 student Elliot Ping said of the program, "The great thing about being there full-time is that you really have the opportunity to immerse yourself...You're really involved in everything and you're...getting the hands-on experience too."

PRECS is now accepting applications for Summer 2020; the deadline to participate is March 1. Eligible students: 

  • must be currently enrolled at a community college

  • must be US citizens or permanent residents

  • have completed General Biology I and General Chemistry I (preferred)

Underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply. Preferred students will earn a $6,000 stipend. Housing/food allowances, as well as travel allowances (if needed) are also available. Application materials and more information are available at https://lnkd.in/eg4q_Wi.

As advice to students considering whether or not to apply, Kat Cortez of PRECS 2019 says, "Don't hesitate because you learn so much about yourself and your ability. You're capable of so much more than you think you are. And I think that's what this experience taught me."

Parkland College Land Surveying students and faculty will be official surveyors at this weekend's "World Championship Punkin Chunkin" event in Rantoul.
 
Using high accuracy GPS equipment, Kory Allred, Land Surveying faculty member, will lead a group of students to set team areas and measure pumpkin flight distances from more than 30 “machines” signed up to participate in this annual event, which takes place at the former Chanute Airforce Base Nov. 2 and 3.
 
“It will be a great experience for the students that allows them to utilize the skills learned in classes in new ways!” Allred said.
 
Additionally, Todd Horton, Construction Management program director, will be entering the competition with his own punkin’-chunkin’ machine.
 
The two-day contest will allow three shots by each machine to determine the 2019 World Champion: two shots fired on Saturday and a final competition shot on Sunday. Usually held in Delaware, the competition has moved to Illinois for the first time outside of its home state.
 
The World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA) will carry on a tradition started more than 35 years ago with this year’s event, according to Frank Payton III, WCPCA president. The WCPCA is a trademark, all-volunteer nonprofit that raises money for scholarships and organizations that benefit the local community. It hosts a signature pumpkin-launching event each year, fueling innovative engineering and science-based ideas that draw spectators from all over.
 
A weekend pass to the Championship is $20, and daily passes may be purchased online for $10 per day. Admission at the competition will be $15 per day (cash only). Children under 10 will be able to enter the event for free.
 
For more information visit the World Championship Punkin Chunkin website at punkinchunkin.com

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