MCC Addresses the Manufacturing Skills Gap

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It wasn’t all that long ago that most American children took a home economics or shop class during middle or high school. Through these programs, students were taught basics skills in courses like sewing, cooking, car maintenance, carpentry and metal work. These courses provided skills and knowledge that could benefit the student throughout their life. The courses also inspired talents that the participant didn’t know they had and paved the way toward careers. Slowly, these courses have disappeared and the classrooms were repurposed. So what happened?

In the 1980s, policy makers commissioned a report that contributed to the ever-growing assertion that American schools were failing, and not globally competitive. This report touched off a wave of local, state and federal reform efforts. The national education reform movement of the 1980s added a host of academic courses to graduation requirements, leaving little room for students to take the shop electives. College prep courses became the focus for parents and schools. Shop classes developed a negative stigma of which only academically underperforming students should consider.

Fast forward to the new millennium. Workers who grew up with those shop classes and entered the trades held solid, respectable careers. Now, they’re exiting the workforce and taking decades of experience and skill with them. Businesses have to fill huge experience gaps. The manufacturing sector is undergoing this loss as well as an increasing need for more technological aptitude of their employees. Manufacturers are increasingly finding that prospective workers do not have the skill set necessary to perform job functions such as basic math and computer abilities. If this problem is unresolved, the ability to stay competitive could be compromised.

McHenry County is one of the fastest-growing manufacturing sectors in the region, accounting for more than 25 percent of the county’s earnings. The 2nd Quarter 2014 McHenry County Labor Report identifies that 593 manufacturing firms reside in McHenry County.

As a proud partner with our area businesses, McHenry County College recognized its obligation to address the needs of manufacturing. MCC and 20 community colleges across the state created a consortium called INAM (Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing). INAM has been tasked, through a multi-million dollar grant from the Department of Labor, to train and certify students for entry into the rewarding field of advanced manufacturing. In 2013 the College dedicated new space for manufacturing classrooms. MCC purchased Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) & Robotics machines along with advanced manufacturing software to offer certificates and degrees in the manufacturing field. These credit programs include certificates in CNC Machining, Manufacturing Design Technology, Manufacturing Processes, Robotic System Programmer and Architectural & Engineering Design; 2 year AAS degrees include Engineering Technology, Robotic Systems Engineering Technology and Manufacturing Management.

MCC’s commitment to businesses and their employees continues through our Workforce and Community Development (WCD) Division offering a variety of non-credit courses and programs that provide job skills training and resources in support of manufacturing. See page 3 for non-credit programs held at the Crystal Lake and the McHenry Shah Center campuses. WCD also offers Welding Boot Camp and Welding Certification Qualifications Preparation programs at MCC’s Woodstock Center location. As always, the training courses listed within this issue can be customizable and brought on-site to a company through our Contract Training program.

Patricia Kallaus
Coordinator of Business Solutions
Workforce, Community and Business Programs



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