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High Wage Jobs in the Illinois Valley go Unfilled

This is the 7th Article in a Series about College and Career Readiness

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Too lazy for a challenge? Few willing to tackle program for  high-wage jobs


Kevin Caufield  NEWS   TRIBUNE

  Need a job? The answer is “yes” if you’re one out of about every   10 work-able residents in the Illinois Valley.
  But the local unemployed and underemployed may not want to get the   certification needed for high-wage employment.
  That’s one theory behind the poor enrollment of Illinois Valley Community   College’s Certified Production Technician certificate program that all but   guarantees high-wage employment in the manufacturing sector upon completion.
  “I don’t know if people are hungry for jobs,” said IVCC associate vice   president of academic affairs Sue Isermann. “It’s not that the jobs aren’t   out there. We’re talking to employers who need workers. Maybe it’s the local   unemployed and underemployed who don’t want to take the challenge.”
  Three out of five students completed the certificate program last fall with   one more nearly completed. But this semester, only four are enrolled full   time and one is part time.
  IVCC administrators are now searching for answers given the program’s   unexpectedly low enrollment and Illinois Valley’s high unemployment rate.
  “It’s a head-scratcher for us,” Isermann said. “I don’t know what the answer   is. Every school doing similar programs are struggling to get students to   enroll. Maybe it’s the poor perception of manufacturing jobs.
  “We do know that this is a program that we’re not going to let die because we   know that local employers need people with this training right now,” she   said.
  Eleven Illinois Valley-based manufacturers have backed the program by   pledging interest in hiring students who earn the certificate. Some have even   asked the college to enroll more because they have demand for filling these   high-paying positions.
  Those manufacturers include American Nickeloid, Maze Nails, Eakas and James   Hardie of Peru, Carus Corp. of La Salle, Hart Electric of Lostant, HCC of   Mendota, MBL (USA) of Ottawa and Transco, Plymouth Tube and Vactor   Manufacturing of Streator.
  The certificate course prepares students for high-performance,   technologically advanced production jobs. It also serves a need for employers   who want to give additional training to its existing workforce.
  IVCC business training center coordinator Jennifer Scheri said the program   has a “fast track” option for people with five or more years of experience in   the field to take the course.
  Scheri said employers have enrolled two students into the “fast track”   option.
  “We’re trying to figure out how best to meet the needs of the people out   there who need jobs,” she said. “But it does make you ask: ‘Where are all of   the unemployed people out there.’”

Kevin Caufield can be   reached at (815) 220-6932 or countyreporter@newstrib.com.