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]

To honor their outstanding scholastic achievement, approximately 735 students have been named to the Parkland College Dean's List for Fall 2020. To make the list, students must earn a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 grade scale for the semester in which they are being honored. Students who earn less than 12 hours in that semester can make the dean's list by achieving a 3.5 cumulative GPA for 12 or more hours during an academic year.

To view the full dean's list, visit parkland.edu/deanslist.

Parkland College to Close for Winter Break

Winter Break observed from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3

Parkland College will be closed December 24 to January 3 for winter break. Campus offices will reopen January 4 and will continue helping new and returning students register for the Spring 2021 semester, which begins Monday, January 11. 

From January 4 to the start of the semester, Student Services offices will be open during limited hours on campus due to the pandemic. To inquire about availability, students can use the Department Office Directory to visit the individual office's web page, or call the College's main line at 217/351-2200.

Parkland College will offer a virtual Spring 2021 Enrollment Blitz, where students can receive one-stop help with enrolling in spring courses, applying for financial aid, and more, on December 8, 9, 15, and 16 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Zoom. More dates and information about the event can be found on the College's Facebook event page

Current Parkland College students may continue registering for Spring 2021 classes at my.parkland.edu. This online registration is available through Sunday, January 10.

 

New students can visit parkland.edu/apply to apply for admission to the college and can view available Spring 2021 courses at parkland.edu/findaclass. For additional assistance, contact the Admissions office at 217/351-2482 or admissions@parkland.edu 

Parkland SWFT Program Receives Funding for Second Year

The Support for Workforce Training program will be funded for a second year, supported by State Rep. Carol Ammons

Parkland College announced today that the Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) program has been refunded for a second year. In collaboration with the Illinois Community College Board and State Rep. Carol Ammons, SWFT will be able to continue to provide free, short-term training to underserved populations in the college's district.
 
Backed by a over $1 million Illinois Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant, Parkland's 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 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. 

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

“As Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, my most fervent goal is to increase access to education. Knowing that I contribute to tearing down the inequitable barrier of cost for so many looking to build a better future is what makes this work worth it," she said. "I have very much enjoyed watching Parkland implement its Workforce Equity Initiative put forth by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and I am proud to know they will be receiving financial support to continue this life-changing program. The Black Caucus remains committed to expanding access to education across the state and we thank Parkland for their partnership.”

Along with providing tuition, fee, and book 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 and awarded funding will receive wraparound support services, such as academic counseling, career advising and workshops, and new this year is the incorporation of essential skills training.

Students may select from 14 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 general construction and welding; office assistant, CompTIA A+, and Google IT professionals; sterile processing technician and CNA; and truck driver CDL and forklift, among others. Programs can be completed in a year or less.

Spring enrollment is underway. To begin the process, interested individuals should visit www.parkland.edu/swft.  

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. 

The grant period began November 2020 and extends through October 2021.

For more information, please visit www.parkland.edu/swft or contact the SWFT program office at 217/353-2150.

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