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Oakton Part of $12.9 Million Grant to Enhance Manufacturing Education Programs in Illinois

Des Plaines, IL (September 24, 2012) – Oakton Community College will receive more than $500,000 as part of a $12,939,459 three-year federal grant awarded to the Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing (INAM). A consortium of 21 Illinois community colleges, INAM will use the funds to launch an Earn and Learn Advanced Manufacturing Career Lattice Program that trains workers for high-paying jobs in the manufacturing field.

Manufacturing contributes $97 million to Illinois’ economy and accounts for 12.6 percent of jobs state-wide. However, due to economic and demographic trends, the industry has become more skill-intensive. Positions in the field now require a postsecondary education, and Illinois faces a severe shortage of qualified workers.

Earn and Learn, coordinated at the state level by William Rainey Harper College, will produce a steady supply of skilled manufacturing workers by expanding and improving industry-recognized certificate and degree programs that can be completed in two years or less.

Each INAM member college will either upgrade or develop new programming in advanced manufacturing that provides students with specialized skills in computer numerical control (CNC), green manufacturing, industrial maintenance, mechatronics, or welding.

Oakton’s priorities include:

  • Developing a fast track mechatronics certificate. One of the most rapidly-growing areas in the industry, mechatronics is a multidisciplinary approach to manufacturing that combines computer, control, electronic, mechanical, software, and systems design engineering. Oakton will reduce its 48-week certificate program to 26 weeks, with some courses offered online. Course topics will include hydraulics, pneumatics, and controls; robotics and vision systems; programmable controllers (PLC); and more.
  • Shifting the technical math course to a self-paced, online, module-based system. Technical math – essential for manufacturing professionals – is currently available at Oakton only through a standard classroom model. The revised course will be offered online, enabling students to advance more rapidly as they move at their own pace from module to module.
  • Developing an ESL class focused on technical language.  Oakton’s ESL students master conversational English, but sometimes struggle with the vocabulary commonly used in manufacturing classes. Oakton will develop an ESL class specifically focused on technical language.
  • Expanding internship placements. Oakton’s Internship Program will expand efforts to provide INAM students with work experiences at area manufacturing companies.

Earn and Learn students will pay in-district tuition and fees at any INAM college, regardless of where they live or work.

“Oakton has long been a leader in cutting-edge manufacturing education,” says President Margaret B. Lee, Ph.D. “The College plays a key role in the National Center for Excellence in Supply Chain Technology Education, and soon will launch a nanotechnology educational center in Skokie through the Nanotechnology Employment, Education, and Economic Development Initiative (NE3I). We are excited to expand our efforts. The 21 INAM colleges all bring different resources to the table — together, they can provide Illinois students and industry with high-quality, comprehensive advanced manufacturing training that creates pathways to employment and strengthens our economy.”

INAM’s award is part of $500 million in grant funds recently announced by the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program, which complements President Obama’s goal to ensure that every American has at least one year of postsecondary education and the United States has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. 

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