Innovative Harper College manufacturing program spreading statewide
The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $12.9 million in federal funding to expand Harper College's new Advanced Manufacturing program to schools across Illinois, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Thursday.
The Palatine community college, in collaboration with regional manufacturers, launched its Advanced Manufacturing program this semester to help replenish the pipeline of skilled workers. A recent Manufacturing Institute report found that U.S. companies can't fill an estimated 600,000 positions in the advanced manufacturing sector.
"Harper Community College's Advanced Manufacturing Degree and Training Program is a great example of an innovative partnership that is putting people back to work, filling critical shortages at growing businesses and manufacturers, and spurring local economic development," Durbin said in a statement. "I was pleased to welcome the program's representatives to Washington earlier this year to hear them share their experience and discuss how to apply their successful practices to other communities, which is exactly what this funding will allow them to do."
Harper President Ken Ender said the college was among 54 institutions selected for the Department of Labor's $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant, a four-year initiative to support partnerships between community colleges and employers.
Harper's program offers industry-endorsed skills certificates and paid internships with local manufacturers. It's also designed to encourage younger students to consider a manufacturing career by offering college credit to high school students.
Harper, which will receive about $600,000 for program support, will act as the lead institution and manage the distribution of funds. Each school will offer the same advanced manufacturing degree at identical tuition rates, though the certification specialties may vary.
Some money will be used to purchase a mobile lab to introduce elementary school students to manufacturing, as well as develop a statewide job placement system. There's also an accountability factor, as Harper must analyze the grant's effectiveness.
"On behalf of our manufacturing and community college partners, we are very pleased to be awarded this grant which will help train workers for 21st century jobs throughout Illinois," Ender said. "These aren't stereotypical factories anymore. It's high-tech manufacturing using state-of-the-art equipment that requires good math and computer skills as well as critical thinking. We believe our fast track curriculum combined with paid internships will help provide manufacturers with the workers they need in order to grow and thrive in a global economy."
The program will expand to about 20 community colleges, including College of Lake County, College of DuPage, Oakton Community College, Elgin Community College, McHenry County College, Triton College and Waubonsee Community College.