Illinois community colleges receive federal grant to expand access to workforce training for in-demand industries

Three Illinois Community Colleges will work collectively to boost access to workforce training and skill development in high-demand manufacturing fields after being awarded a $5.5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant.

Rock Valley Community College in Rockford will lead the effort and partner with McHenry County College in Crystal Lake and Highland Community College in Freeport. The Illinois Community College Board will assist the colleges with the strategic direction of the expanded programs to provide access for an additional 700 students over the four years of the grant.

“The future of manufacturing is in Illinois,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “Thanks to this federal grant, Rock Valley Community College and its partners will provide stipends and train hundreds of students for in-demand, high-paying manufacturing jobs. This endeavor, along with the investments my administration has made, strategically expands the talent pipeline Illinois companies need to remain competitive globally. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Manufacturing is a $115 billion industry in Illinois, representing nearly 13% of the gross state product while the top 15 occupations in manufacturing are forecast to grow by 12% over the next five years.

“Together, we will work within our college districts to strengthen collaborations with business and industry partners to enhance access to advanced manufacturing education and training,” said Rock Valley College President Howard Spearman. “These efforts will help us to close equity gaps by increasing enrollment, completion, and employment rates for women, African American, and Hispanic students.”

Administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants support community colleges to prepare students for jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and offer career development opportunities.

“ICCB is excited to partner with these outstanding community colleges to provide more flexible learning options for students so they can return to or enter meaningful and sustainable employment as quickly as possible,” ICCB Executive Director Brian Durham said. “We are excited to help set the strategic direction of this expansion that meets the consortium’s equity goals and help them engage with a wide range of external partners to drive awareness and recruitment.”

The three Illinois colleges are part of 41 community colleges across the U.S. to be selected for the $65 million federal grant program to expand capacity for job skills training that meets an increased demand by employers and helps more students qualify for good-paying jobs.

“Hiring qualified workers is one of the key challenges facing manufacturers across Illinois,” said Sarah Hartwick, vice president of education and workforce policy for the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and executive director of the IMA’s Education Foundation. “This grant will help address that issue by providing students access to important training opportunities that will better prepare them for high-paying jobs in an exciting field. By investing in our workforce, we can build stronger, more prosperous communities across Illinois.”

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