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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[20-21/053]

Armed with seed money from Parkland College to start his own business, Eliot Graham plans to turn your condo into a cozy haven.

And while Parkland's 2020 Student Entrepreneur of the Year appreciates this new opportunity to grow plants for what will soon be The Wood Violet LLC, it has been his own growth this fall through the school’s CobraVenture Program that he considers far more valuable.
 

"Winning was truly secondary to all the knowledge gained over the last few months," Graham said about Parkland's second-ever student startup cohort. "The greatest part of CobraVenture was that everyone that came in wanted to see us succeed. This community is focused on ensuring success of small businesses, and that was not only reassuring, but very heartwarming."

Parkland College held its 2020 CobraVenture Pitch Showcase on Nov. 16, which took place virtually for audiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic (judges and competitors were masked and socially distanced in the Student Union.) Having competed with six other Parkland students in his cohort during the event, Graham will soon receive the event’s top prize: $3,000 in seed money and $1,000 in monetary technology to start The Wood Violet.

Through the Wood Violet, Champaign resident Graham plans to bring the power of plants and plant-products to small-space areas, such as apartments and condos. His pitch centered on the reality that the home is transforming in the age of the pandemic, "serving as both residences, office spaces, classrooms, and staycation destinations." His new mobile gardening units will turn these spaces into what he calls "livable, comfortable, and functional sanctuaries."

Graham plans to graduate with his associate's degree in Horticulture and Landscape Design before continuing on to earn a bachelor's in business administration. He plans to use the prize money to establish The Wood Violet as a limited liability company, lease a small plot of land, and have his business up and running by spring 2022.

Judges for the pitch competition were Daniel Marker, President of Hickory Point Bank; Carly McCrory, Executive Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation; Professor Julie Weishar, chair of Parkland's Fine and Applied Arts department; and Marissa Siero, Corporate Engagement and Programs Manager at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business.

The pitch contest highlighted students from the CobraVenture program's student accelerator lab, which launched in January 2020. The semester-long CobraVenture accelerator provides students with an avenue for networking and business mentorship. It features a collaborative workspace, topics taught by local serial entrepreneurs, and one-on-one guidance with business mentors. "Without a doubt, I enjoyed every presenter that came in and lectured," Graham said. "They provided thoughtful and in-depth detail of what would be our next or future steps for our businesses. That time and those talks proved to be invaluable."

While he waits to open his own business, Graham seems happy to promote those of his CobraVenture competitors. "I would encourage you to patronize the runner-up, Pawly's Pet Grooming in Mahomet!" he said. "Polly is a terrific person, and I am happy to have gone through CobraVenture with her. I have no doubt that you and your pet will be happy with her services."

CobraVenture is funded through existing funds from the Parkland Foundation Entrepreneurial Founders Program, Murray Wise Associates PEN Program, and those raised through its annual Entrepreneur of the Year event. Parkland Community Education, the college's noncredit arm, is helping to plan and administer the workshops. The program is operating with oversight from an advisory committee comprised of community leaders and Parkland College faculty and staff, spearheaded by Stephanie Stuart, Vice President for Communications and External Affairs.

Ready for a bachelor's or master's degree? Use your Parkland credits! The following colleges will have representatives on hand this spring in the Student Union (unless otherwise noted) to discuss four-year degrees and transfer options.

Eastern Illinois University
*College Center, X wing lounge

Tuesday, February 11

Monday, March 9

Thursday, April 2

10 am–1 pm

Representative: Ryan Howard

 

 

 

 

 

Parkland College, in collaboration with the Illinois Community College Board and State Rep. Carol Ammons, has launched a new program that will provide free, short-term training to underserved populations in the college's district.
 
Backed by a $1.5 million Illinois Workforce Equity Initiative grant, Parkland's new Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) Program aims to help more than 150 district residents move into high-demand careers with family-sustaining wages within a year or less. The WEI grant aims to address historic underrepresentation of African Americans in high-demand, high-wage careers, thus requiring African Americans to comprise 60 percent of the population served by the SWFT program. 

Parkland President Tom Ramage described the program's potential impact.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity for Parkland College to remove barriers for those wishing to upgrade their skills with short-term programs and move into high-demand careers," he said. "These students will have the opportunity to change, not only the trajectory of their lives, but that of their families. We commend our legislators for supporting this innovative approach to expanding the skilled workforce, growing businesses, and ensuring the continued growth of the local economy."  

The initiative was spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus with strong support from State Rep. Carol Ammons. 

"I am proud to support a program that creates ample opportunities in a realistic way," Ammons said. "Participants may receive a number of scholarships, waivers, and stipends, for the necessary classes and training to further their careers. These resources also include childcare, transportation, and other non-monetary tools that will ensure that 'life' doesn't get in the way of making life better.

"I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for their work to find workforce training programming that will help to increase wages for people in our community. This program will help people become certified for careers where there are skill gaps and workforce shortages in our region. I am honored to have fought for this money on behalf of those looking for work, and I look forward to working with Parkland College to maximize this grant money and its impact on our community."

Along with providing tuition and fee waivers for training and stipends to help tackle higher education-access barriers, the initiative will address local workforce gaps and employment barriers in an effort to prepare skilled workers to move into employment upon program completion. Participants who are eligible for the program also will receive wraparound support services, such as academic counseling and mentoring.

Students may select from 22 Parkland College degree or certificate programs in four technical career categories: construction and manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and distribution, and business and IT services. Career options vary widely and include industrial maintenance and welding; office assistant, Microsoft Web, and Google IT professionals; phlebotomy and pharmacy technicians; practical nursing and CNA; and truck driver CDL and highway construction, among others. Most programs can be completed in a year or less.

Those eligible for the incentives may include incumbent workers, unemployed persons, members of underrepresented minority groups, those receiving SNAP benefits and other need-based aid, recently incarcerated persons and ex-offenders, those receiving housing assistance, and others demonstrating financial need. 

Parkland College was one of 15 community colleges selected to take part in the $18.5 million WEI, which aims to train 1,500 adults statewide for jobs in areas with a high demand for workers. The grant period begins October 2019 and extends through September 2020. State officials notified Parkland College of its award in mid-September.

For more information, please visit parkland.edu/swft or contact the SWFT Program office at 217/353-2149.

Parkland College has received high marks for financial soundness from external auditors and is enhancing career and technical programs at the college through a recent increase in federal grant funds. 

The Parkland College Board of Trustees officially accepted the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) from Martin Hood, LLC, at its meeting Wednesday. The report presented the college with an unqualified "clean" opinion of its FY 2019 financial statements, the best type to receive from independent review. The audit highlights the college's exemplary fiscal management and includes reports on Parkland's schedule of expenditures of federal awards and its internal control over financial reporting and compliance.

Also at their meeting, trustees received an update on how a $643,000 Carl D. Perkins grant Parkland received for AY 2020 is being used to strengthen career and technical programs and support students in underrepresented groups. Through the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), the US Dept. of Education is providing more than $1.2 billion in federal aid this year to bolster CTE programs across the country. 

Pamela Lau, Executive Vice President, reported that the Perkins funds are being used in several major ways. First, they will help develop an apprenticeship office at Parkland College; this effort will accelerate the development of apprenticeships with the College, which has obtained status as a US Department of Labor intermediary, one that proactively addresses workforce needs for both employees and employers. The funds will also allow the college to provide career-exploration software, soft-skills training, summer camps, and other work-based learning tools for students. Under the leadership of Bobbi Scholze, Parkland's dean of career and technical education, the College will continue expanding pathways to obtain CTE credentials in collaboration with Parkland's Adult Education and Community Education units. Finally, Parkland will make capital equipment purchases and lab and software upgrades that help boost CTE program technology.

In other business, the board approved the following:

  • purchase of body-worn cameras and associated hardware and software from WatchGuard, Inc., Allen, Texas, $22,355;

  • purchase of a 15-passenger commercial bus from Midwest Transit Equipment of Kankakee, $50,628;

  • retaining Henneman Engineering, Inc. of Champaign for the development and design of the campus electronic door lock upgrade, $509,850;

  • purchase of the pre-exposure rabies vaccine administration from McKinley Health Center in Urbana for veterinary tech students, $21,420;

  • receipt of funds from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) Workforce Equity Initiative. College officials publicly announce the grant award on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m. in the Student Union atrium.

  • personnel appointments:

    • Gerald Lighty, Faculty, Ag/Engineering Science Technologies

    • Carrie Harris, Program Manager, Community Education

    • Josh Houston, Maintenance Tech/Electrician, Physical Plant

    • Jenna Hooker, Police Officer, Public Safety

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