New State Report Details Parkland's Impact on Local Economy
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New State Report Details Parkland's Impact on Local Economy

Parkland accounts for $85.7 million in economic output, gains students $600,000 in additional earnings

Parkland College plays a key role in boosting the local Champaign-Urbana and greater Illinois economies, according to a new study from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB).

The study, Illinois Community Colleges' Economic Impacts and Student Employment Outcomes, evaluates the Illinois community college system on its ability to meet the needs of business and industry and on equity, student outcomes, students' return on investment, and overall economic impact. The study estimates that, in the last fiscal year, Parkland College's total economic output on the statewide economy was $85.7 million.

During this period, Parkland employed 1,024 employees with a total payroll of $37.7 million in wages and benefits. This activity rippled through the state economy, creating 220 additional jobs, boosting payrolls, and promoting other economic activity, according to the study.

"This study quantifies what we already know, which is that Parkland provides life-changing opportunities for students and that community colleges are vehicles for economic prosperity," said Parkland president Thomas Ramage. "Investing in a degree or long-term certificate program is an investment not only in your own future and that of your family; it contributes substantially to the economic vitality of the region and the state of Illinois. Recent events have deepened and reaffirmed our commitment to serving all who wish to learn and train for a new career."

"Parkland College is a key partner in the work we do to advance the central Illinois region, and that is especially true in Champaign County," said Carly McCrory-McKay, Executive Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.

"Their collaboration on workforce development initiatives, supporting entrepreneurs, and engagement in attracting employers to our community is absolutely critical in improving the economic well-being of our region. From the ICATT Apprenticeship program and Early College and Career Academy to CobraVenture and AgTech initiatives, Parkland College always stands ready to meet the needs of our region, and we're truly thankful for the partnership and impact."

Parkland College's economic impact is not limited to the local or statewide economy. The study found that more than 80 percent of Parkland's long-term certificate and associate's degree graduates obtained jobs in their career field within one year of graduation. Employment rates improved over time, with 90 percent of graduates employed after 10 years. Parkland Health Professions degree completers saw the highest employment rate at 88.6 percent.

The study also measured the return on investment for students obtaining credentials at a community college, compared to someone not completing or attending community college. The increased earnings for a degree completer were estimated to total more than $620,000 over the course of a 40-year working life.

COVID Impact. The report also looked at the economic impact of COVID on the industries of Illinois. While many industries are experiencing permanent job closures or position eliminations, others, such as healthcare and social assistance, transportation and warehousing, and waste management and remediation services, are expected to increase their demand for trained and/or certified workers.

"For Parkland, this is an opportunity to help displaced workers retrain, retool, and get back into the workforce," said Pamela Lau, executive vice president. "Getting workers back on track, ready for a new career, and ready to support themselves and their families with opportunities they might not have been able to access otherwise is our goal."

Workforce Organization Assessment. Community workforce leaders, including Dr. Justin Arnold, director of workforce development at Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, agree with the study's estimate of Parkland College's worth to the community, calling the college the regional leader for job training.

"We work with Parkland College to connect our clients—youth, adults, and employers—to a variety of educational resources: noncredit corporate training, apprenticeship curriculum design, industry-recognized credentials, and remedial support, such as GED-prep and adult literacy," Arnold said.

Equity Efforts. All Illinois community colleges are committed to continuing growth in short-term certificate opportunities, particularly in high-need communities. The ICCB study found that employment rates varied by race and ethnicity for those who completed Parkland College programs in fiscal year 2018 (latest full year available). African American completers represented the largest minority group by share of completers, with a career-job employment rate of 93.1 percent.

In 2019, Illinois created the Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI)—a grant program designed to increase workforce opportunities for African Americans, a group severely underrepresented among Career and Technical education (CTE) programs. Over the last two years, the WEI program has granted nearly $40 million to address education and unemployment gaps in the African American and other minority communities throughout Illinois. Locally, the Workforce Equity Initiative has been championed by State Representative Carol Ammons.

Parkland College has been participating in the WEI through its Support for Workforce Training (SWFT) program since the WEI's inception. This program provides funding for short-term (one year or less) in careers such as healthcare, transportation and distribution, business and IT services, or construction and manufacturing. Students' tuition and fees are covered through the grant in addition to a weekly stipend. The program also integrates career-specific adult education bridge programs for those who are still developing English language skills or are preparing for college-level coursework.

"SWFT has given Parkland the opportunity to implement a new workforce development from an equity lens and help students overcome longstanding barriers to succeeding in higher education," said Stephanie Stuart, vice president for communications and external affairs and the SWFT grant administrator. "We have served more than 250 students and counting in the program who would have otherwise been unable to access training in high-demand career fields. Its development is having a long-term impact on how our institution serves our diverse, vibrant community."

"When you invest in Parkland College, you are investing in much more than 'just a degree,'" said President Ramage. "You are believing in the worth and value of not only yourself, but the community you call home."

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