As local manufacturers struggle to find skilled workers and jobs go unfilled, Harper College is preparing to launch an Advanced Manufacturing program designed to train workers in as few as 18 months.
Dozens of local manufacturers, educators, policy makers and industry leaders Wednesday joined Harper officials at Acme Industries in Elk Grove Village for the formal announcement of the new program.
With bells, drills and other mechanical sounds serving as the backdrop, Harper President Ken Ender thanked the 50-plus local manufacturing partners that have agreed to provide future students with more than 72 paid internships -- just one of the innovative practices he believes will lead to the program's success.
The initiative is necessary, Ender said, to help fill the 80,000 advanced manufacturing jobs currently vacant in Illinois alone. The figure jumps to 600,000 open jobs nationwide, according to a survey by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.
"Sharing talent, sharing resources, we developed a solid local response to a national problem," Ender said.
One of the catalysts behind the program was state Sen. Dan Kotowski, who reached out to Harper after repeatedly hearing from manufacturers about the shortage of job applicants even minimally qualified in math, computers and other necessary skills.
"I was kind of stunned to hear there were so many jobs available," Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said. "More of these public/private partnerships need to exist to respond to problems."
At the end of just one semester, students in the program will start a three-month paid internship with an industry-endorsed, entry-level certificate already under their belt. They'll move on to obtain more specialized certificates in the areas of precision machining, mechatronics/automation, metal fabrication and supply chain management.
Each certificate is "stackable," meaning it merges seamlessly into a clear pathway for associate and bachelor degrees.
Officials expect finding interested students could pose a challenge, so Ender called on everyone in attendance to get the word out and emphasize that modern manufacturing careers provide a secure, middle-class lifestyle with room to advance.