The Parkland College Blog

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 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

CTE Career Exploration Night, Sept. 4

Meet vo-tech industry employers, get advice on career paths, more

Parkland College will host a night for students to explore hands-on technical careers Sept. 4.

Career Exploration Night, sponsored by the school's Career and Technical Education division, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Tony Noel Agricultural Applications Center and the Parkhill Applied Technology Center on the main campus.

Current and prospective Parkland students are invited to meet employers, get expert advice on a career path, learn how to make a great first impression, and tour high-tech learning labs. Career opportunities in horticulture, automotive, collision repair, diesel power, construction management, industrial technology, land surveying and electronics will be discussed. Participants can chat with employers about internship opportunities and career tracks in their industries.

To RSVP for this event, visit

New Industry Apprenticeship Program Starts This Fall

ICATT to cover students' tuition, apprenticeship wages

Starting this fall, Parkland College is partnering with a leading Midwest apprenticeship program to provide subsidized education that meets local industry demand for skilled employees in high-tech manufacturing.

Parkland's first cohort for the Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training program, or ICATT, includes two students and two local companies, Silgan Closures and Litania Sports Group. The three-year program covers students' tuition as they earn the Industrial Technology AAS degree at Parkland and lets students earn apprenticeship wages by working three days per week on the job. The program also covers students’ travel expenses.

Bobbi Scholze, dean of Parkland’s Career and Technical Education division, said today's economics often force students to have to choose between taking available industry work and attending school to upgrade their industry skills. Through ICATT, students can do both.

"It’s earn and learn," she said. "Students will have a built-in job and a college degree once they’re done. Plus, employers and schools aren’t competing for the same students."

Parkland College's 70 hour Industrial Technology program will prepare students to install and maintain the electromechanical, mechanical pneumatic and hydraulic systems used in manufacturing and building facilities. Students will learn electrical power and motors, control systems, pumps, compressors, pneumatics, hydraulics and power transfer devices.

The Chicago-based ICATT contacted Parkland College last spring to support the program’s efforts in downstate Illinois. Parkland then worked with the Champaign County Economic Development Corp. to drum up interest with local employers and pair ICATT's students with supporting companies. 

Scholze anticipates growth in the program as more area companies hire fully trained Parkland College graduates armed with high-tech manufacturing skills.

"This is a long-range strategy and investment in the student and in their employment," Scholze said. "It’s a wonderful thing."

Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (ICATT) is the leading apprenticeship program for high-tech manufacturers and companies with complex technologies or logistics. It is the largest program fully benchmarked on the German Dual Education System – an approach recognized globally for its combination of company-specific knowledge, theory, and hands-on learning – resulting in highly-trained employees that position companies to embrace technical advances, keep pace with market demands, and harness growth opportunities.

For more information on the ICATT Program at Parkland College, contact CTE Program Manager Aimee Densmore at

Parkland College Gets NSF Grant for New Ag Degree Program

Advanced Applicator Technician AAS launches in fall, funded through NSF-ATE

Parkland College has received a third three-year grant from the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technology Education Program to improve training in precision agriculture-related fields.  

At its regular meeting Wednesday, the Parkland College Board of Trustees approved the release of $385,929 in NSF funds for the college's newest degree program, the Advanced Applicator Technician AAS, which launches this fall. 

NSF-ATE projects focus on educating technicians in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. This latest NSF-ATE award will support Parkland's "Curriculum for Advanced Applicator Technicians (CAAT) Project" by funding part-time faculty, training equipment, and travel for student recruitment and faculty professional development.

A part of the new Midwest Center for Precision Agriculture at Parkland College, the Advanced Applicator Technician AAS degree was developed in response to the need of area retail agribusiness leaders. Crop input practices, precision technology developments and continuous government regulation changes all demonstrate a need for greater technical expertise and training in the proper application of fertilizer and chemicals. The CAAT Project focuses on providing future custom applicator technicians with postsecondary training and credentials in this critical career sector of the agribusiness industry, fulfilling current educational and employment needs by preparing highly-skilled technicians. AAS program graduates will be proficient in basic agronomic skills, operating applicator equipment, and applying applicator procedures in accordance with Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency regulations. 

Parkland College received its first-ever NSF-ATE grant (as fiscal agent and sole awardee) in 2016 to fund the Precision Agriculture Curriculum Enhancement (PACE) Project. In fall 2018, the school was awarded its second such grant to fund UAS (drone) curriculum development. For more information on the CAAT Project, contact Assistant Professor Jennifer Fridgen, Agriculture/Engineering Science and Technologies, at 217/402-3662 or

Parkland's trustee board also heard spring and summer 2019 campus enrollment updates from enrollment management Dean Kristin Smigielski. 

Also at the meeting, Chief Financial Officer Chris Randles presented the tentative budget for FY 2020, which includes an operating surplus of approximately $280,000. The tentative budget will be on display for public viewing prior to final budget approval at the September meeting. 

In other business, trustees approved the following:

  • formal acknowledgement of work contracts connected to the Series 2008 and Series 2009 debt certificates used to pay for Master Plan construction work.

  • purchase of repair services from Poplar Grove Airmotive, Inc., Poplar Grove, Illinois, $69,000.

  • purchase of magnification loupes and lights from Orascoptic of Middleton, Wisconsin for the Dental Hygiene Department, $41,220.

  • purchase from Central Illinois X-ray of Bloomington, Illinois for a digital radiography system for Veterinary Technology, $22,000.

  • personnel appointments:

    • Ruthie Counter, Associate Director, Marketing and Public Relations

    • Adrienne Morrison, Director, Child Care Development Center

    • Moises Diaz, Certified Flight Instructor, Institute of Aviation

    • Robin Hayden, Medical Assistant Adjunct Faculty, Health Professions

    • Kerry Janesky, Radiologic Technology Clinical Coordinator, Health Professions

    • Stephanie Manuel, Nursing Adjunct Faculty, Health Professions

    • Charles Mitsdarfer, Agriculture Adjunct Faculty, Agriculture/Engineering Science and Technologies

    • Jordan Boyer Custodian Physical Plant

    • Maria Garcia,  Custodian Physical Plant

    • Kate Kaput, Compliance Coordinator, Public Safety

    • Joseph Kincheloe, Groundskeeper, Physical Plant

    • Carrie Marvin, Payroll Accountant, Business Office

    • Calvin Wilson, Custodian, Physical Plant