The Parkland College Blog

Aspiring student entrepreneurs from Parkland College will soon pitch their ideas before local venture capitalists and startup experts as they vie for more than $8,500 in monetary awards to fund their businesses and the title of Parkland Student Entrepreneur of the Year. 
 
Parkland College's Entrepreneurial Network (PEN) will hold its third CobraVenture Pitch Showcase at 5 p.m. on Monday, May 23 in the Parkland College Student Union. The contest will highlight students from the CobraVenture program's student accelerator lab, which launched in January 2020.

Entrepreneurship Facilitator Marc Changnon will serve as emcee. CobraVenture's 2022 cohort, which began at the start of the 2022 spring semester, includes students from a variety of academic programs who want to start their own business while still enrolled in college. A list of the students, their businesses, and program details can be found at parkland.edu/cobrapitch.
 
Judging their capstone competition will be Damien Banks of Sacred Heart Medical Center, Carly McCrory-McKay of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, Marissa Siero of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business, Professor Julie Weishar, chair of Parkland’s Fine and Applied Arts department, and Mark Pelmore of Lincoln & Hill, Inc.
 
The 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. The program is supported through the Parkland College Foundation.
 
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.

Parkland College Announces New Logistics Training Program in Partnership with Caterpillar in Champaign

Parkland College partners with Caterpillar for new logistics training apprenticeship program

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[NOTE: This is the corrected version of the original release from 2/23/22.]

Parkland College announced a new apprenticeship program in collaboration with Caterpillar Integrated Logistics Center, a provider of integrated supply chain solutions.

The program aims to upskill entry-level warehouse associates and prepare them for advancement opportunities within the industry by combining on-the-job learning and mentoring in Caterpillar logistics centers with classroom instruction provided by Parkland.

"Parkland College is pleased to partner with Caterpillar in this work-based learning program," said Derrick Baker, dean of Career and Technical Education. "We have been impressed by Caterpillar's desire to put a program in place that will provide such a great benefit to the community. Workforce development is an important part of our mission, and Parkland looks forward to more opportunities to assist employers by developing these kinds of 'earn while you learn' programs to expand employers' talent pipelines, increase employee retention, and open doors of opportunity for the local community."

The apprenticeship program launches in late March. Apprentices will work full-time at CAT while taking related courses at Parkland. Classroom time is included in the employees' work hours, and they will be compensated for that time. Four courses comprise the related training instruction portion of the program and the 10 credit hours earned throughout the apprenticeship apply toward Parkland's Business Management Associate in Applied Science degree. Caterpillar will cover all educational expenses for their apprentices.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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