Kaskaskia College Dean of Workforce Engagement and Industrial Careers Joy Fitts has received a Future of Illinois grant from the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) to engage K-12 students in career opportunities in the manufacturing industry. Beginning this month, Fitts’ team will utilize virtual reality software to develop short-term programs for career exploration for students in K-12, as well as quick entry into manufacturing careers. As their project progresses, more training opportunities will be available to those in rural Southeastern and Southwestern Illinois communities, including robotics training, welder training, and other on-site training options.
The workforce development program that Fitts will lead can revolutionize the manufacturing workforce pool in these rural communities through:
• Developing a mobile training and education lab to bring manufacturing career exploration and training directly to K-12 students
• Focusing on junior high and high schools that significantly lack manufacturing-related curriculum
• Building a more diverse workforce pool by also bringing this mobile training lab to disinvested communities, women, and veterans/military-connected individuals
• Helping local small and mid-size manufacturers develop new short-term training programs that will meet required entry-level skills training for employment and upskilling
“According to the 2022 Illinois WIOA Regional Plans, manufacturing is the leading industry sector in Southeastern Economic Development Region (EDR) and a maturing industry sector in the Southwestern EDR,” Fitts stated in her proposal. “Kaskaskia College is working toward providing equitable learning opportunities in our rural region.”
The grant is one of eight awarded by IMEC, with a total investment of more than $650,000, designed to engage faculty on innovative solutions to prepare Illinois manufacturing for the future. IMEC President David Boulay, Ph.D., said, “We are thrilled with the innovative solutions that Illinois academia presented to help Illinois manufacturing embrace the future of manufacturing. From developing our rural workforce to data analytics to sustainability and cybersecurity, there is incredible potential in these grant awards.”
IMEC is a team of improvement specialists dedicated to changing lives and positively impacting Illinois’ workforce and economy. With a mission to drive growth through enterprise excellence, they help organizations become more effective and efficient by identifying issues, developing and implementing solutions, and providing the necessary support that will allow manufacturers to excel in areas of leadership, strategy, customer engagement, operations, workforce, and measurement and results.
In 2021, IMEC assisted over 1,600 companies and helped create or retain over 5,679 jobs, resulting in over $450M aggregate impact on the Illinois economy. IMEC has seven offices statewide and approximately 50 full-time industry improvement specialists. For more information, visit www.imec.org.