The Work Skills Gap is a national problem, but the Whiteside/Northwest Illinois Region has adopted a proactive approach, involving businesses, higher education and economic development officials to meet this challenge with several home-grown programs that have produced results. We haven’t licked the problem completely, but we are making progress in creating a well-trained, educated and committed workforce.
Sauk Valley Community College and Multicraft Technologies
The Multicraft Extended Internship Program provides an outstanding opportunity for select students to obtain valuable work experience, and get paid, while earning their two-year applied associates degree in the Multicraft Technology Program at Sauk Valley Community College (SVCC). Numerous local industries have partnered with SVCC to develop a curriculum and offer part-time positions for students so they can apply what they are learning in the classroom to the job site and earn an income while attending classes.
Over a three-year period, enrollment in the program has tripled and in 2017, it was nominated for the prestigious 2017 Chicago innovation Award. The program also has attracted interested from other communities looking to duplicate its success.
The Whiteside Area Career Center
The Whiteside Area Career Center is one of 61 regional vocational systems in Illinois. Organized in 1986-87, it is designed to coordinate and provide regional career and technical programming among its members, act as the flow-through of federal and state resources, and market career and technology education throughout the region.
Career and technical programs are provided at the Whiteside Area Career Center. Occupational clusters include Auto Tech, Building Trades, Computer Aided Drafting, Computer Repair & Networking, Criminal Justice, Digital Media Arts, Early Childhood Education, Food Service Occupations, Health Occupations, Machining Trades, and Welding Fabrication. High school-aged students are able to attend dual-credit courses, get a head start on their career path and learn work skills and soft skills prior to entering the workplace. Many of the students enter college with college credits already in-hand.
CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities)
Entrepreneurial thinking and out-of-the box problem solving provides the foundation for the CEO program, a one-year course offered to junior and senior high school students that gives them the knowledge and skills necessary to own and operate their own business.
Concepts such as supply and demand, cost/benefit analysis, competitive advantages, and opportunity recognition are covered and coursework includes innovative thinking strategies, product development, business structure, marketing, financial strategies, record keeping, and preparing an income statement, balance sheet, income and cash flow statements. The course allows students to interact with area businesses and includes tours of local industry and guest speakers from all areas of business.
60 X 25
Goal: 60% of all adults have a college or career credential by 2025.
Our region’s communities are working together to provide rigorous, real-world learning in and out of the classroom with schools partnering with local businesses to create job-shadowing, career mentoring and dual-credit programs that will create the workforce employers are seeking.
Today we recognize that all high school graduates need some postsecondary education and/or training if they are to have options and opportunities in the job market. In Illinois, 80% of employers say they need employees with some postsecondary education. Currently only 40% of Illinois residents have a high-quality post-secondary college or career credential.
These realities in Illinois have driven communities to look for broader solutions to what are increasingly seen as systemic problems in the education-to-employment continuum.
60 X 25 is the region’s response to this challenge.
Business Employment Skills Team Inc. is a non-profit agency that administers federally-funded programs in an eight-county area of Northwest Illinois, enabling workers to work and businesses to compete in a global economy.
With nine offices in our region, its focus is assisting adults and youth gain meaningful employment through training, job search assistance and work experience. Accessing its vast range of business services, BEST, Inc. assists local companies to thrive in today’s complex, competitive and ever-changing economy. Its professional staff will meet with employers on-site to assess their needs and determine an appropriate implementation plan.
The organization offers a broad menu of services to adults, dislocated workers and youth, including subcontracting with local schools for a variety of educational projects.
Morrison Tech is one of the Whiteside/Northwest Illinois Region’s hidden gems. Ranked as a “Top 30 Vocational School” by Forbes in 2017, Morrison Tech is the Premier Engineering Technology and Network Administration College in the Midwest, perhaps even the nation.
A hands-on educational approach allows students to learn by doing, and to develop the skills necessary to be successful. Morrison Tech students are well-prepared to enter the job force and make an impact on day one of employment. The school provides a key pipeline of talented engineering students, many of whom are found in key positions with local businesses.
Morrison Tech recently broke ground on the Morrison Tech Innovation Center. The Innovation Center will have it all, including cutting-edge additive manufacturing equipment, robotics and electronics labs, a construction technology lab, traditional manufacturing equipment, wood working and metal working equipment, welding equipment, and casting space will come together to provide almost limitless options.
Built to serve four primary clients, the center will foster collaboration and creativity. Students, businesses, artisans and entrepreneurs will benefit from a place where ideas are explored, dreams are pursued, and discoveries are made.
Schools, Colleges & Universities
The Whiteside/Northwest Illinois Region is within two hours of more than 60 colleges and universities, and more than 120,000 graduates per year – including 5,000-plus engineering graduates.