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 firstname.lastname@example.org.