Regional census data indicates that two-thirds of small- and medium-sized manufacturing firms expect difficulties finding skilled talent in 2021 and beyond. With more than half of these jobs requiring post-high school training but not a four-year degree, Elgin Community College is well-positioned to become the community link between workers and careers that pay family-sustaining wages. Plans to develop a new manufacturing education and training center on the recently purchased Colonial Café property adjacent to the college’s main entrance ensures the college can help meet this need for area families.
“Our efforts are really about closing the local skills gap and boosting economic growth throughout the region,” said Cathy Taylor, dean of sustainability, business, and career technologies. “It's exciting to work with our community to open more paths for students to gain valuable in-demand skills while also supporting the increasing needs of area companies to hire and retain quality employees with reliable ECC credentials.”
Demand for manufacturing programs has outpaced ECC's capacity for years. The proposed new manufacturing education and training center will provide more space for modern classrooms, labs, and machinery. Plans for the center are still preliminary, but the vision is to include multidisciplinary project spaces where students, faculty, and industry partners can research, fabricate, and explore together. In addition, the center will be the home to continuing education opportunities for corporate training and workforce partnerships.
“Expanding these kinds of programs at ECC will allow us to train students for middle-skill jobs in advanced manufacturing, a field of exploding job growth in the Elgin region for several years,” said Taylor. Industries such as manufacturing automation, precision manufacturing, and mechatronics (e.g., robotics and supply chain technicians) need qualified workers. “Our students can be key to these companies and our region’s continued success.”
Students like Simone Tetzlaff, who is completing an apprenticeship with mechatronic automobile components and systems company Brose Belvidere, Inc., see ECC’s expanding manufacturing programs as the catalyst to further their careers. “I’m studying mechatronics at ECC, which allows me to gain a solid skill base in a rewarding career and will advance me toward my goal of being a manager,” said Tetzlaff. “I will be able to do what I have always wanted — to fix anything on my own.”