Coming out of high school, Kevin Reissenweber wasn’t interested in pursuing a traditional college experience, so he enrolled at ECC and secured an apprenticeship at SG360, a marketing and print production company.
“I knew I liked working with my hands and that a traditional four-year degree wasn’t what I wanted,” said Reissenweber. “In my apprenticeship, I get to combine school with hands-on help from employees who know all the tricks for speed and efficiency.”
While apprenticeships provide valuable work experience, they also demonstrate the benefits of ECC’s classroom training to employers.
“Our apprentices are being exposed to issues they might not otherwise see for years in a job setting, and they’re better prepared to solve a problem quickly,” said Greg Dvorak of Rana Meal Solutions in Bartlett.
Strong ties to the business community and community leaders have long been an ECC hallmark, and the ECC Foundation serves as a strategic partner in building those relationships. The resulting partnerships often lead to financial gifts, grants, or even donated equipment, all of which support students’ education and the community’s future.
For example, the college’s partnership with Swiss Automation led the Barrington-based manufacturer to donate $1.3 million worth of equipment, software, and training to ECC. The gift will enable ECC to offer advanced certification programming and create new pathways to jobs.
“Other colleges have solid manufacturing programs. What I like about ECC is its thorough way of training and teaching students beyond the basics,” said Marc Moran, vice president of operations at Swiss Automation. “ECC is willing to understand what we need and help students get to the next level.”
For Cathy Taylor, dean of sustainability, business, and career technologies, a successful collaboration starts with listening to employers and learning about their needs.
“It’s essential that we adapt to the fast pace of change in industry,” she said. “Raising the level of engagement is what our students deserve, and it’s what our business partners need.”
When it comes to revising programs and launching new ones, the college also gathers feedback from employers and advisory boards including program graduates, business leaders, and college representatives. Using this framework, ECC introduced or expanded six new program offerings in the past year in high-demand fields, such as computer support specialist, supply chain management, computer numerical control programmer, and surgical technology.
From creating new programs to developing the skills of ECC graduates, business partnerships are essential to the success of students—and the region’s economy.
As observed by Taylor, “Everything we do needs to further the best interest of the student and add value for employers. After all, once employed, students become members of a wider economic and social community.”