Durbin Announces $1.4 Million in Funding to Local Colleges to Bridge Supply Chain Management Skills Gap

[CHICAGO] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that William Rainey Harper College and Northwestern University have received a combined $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor supporting a new initiative to train workers for high-demand jobs in the fast-growing, high-need field of supply chain management.  The schools are part of a multistate group of twelve colleges working to establish the Leveraging, Integrating, Networking, Coordinating Supplies (LINCS) in Supply Chain Management program that will graduate students with industry-recognized certificates in high-needs jobs, helping to close the skills-to-jobs mismatch that is often referred to as the nation's “skills gap.”


“Supply chain management is one of the highest paying and fastest growing industries in our economy, but companies struggle to find workers with the necessary skills to fill these positions,” Durbin said.  “In part, that's because inexpensive training programs giving workers the tools they need to enter the industry are few and far between.  Their affordability and ability to quickly respond to changing workforce needs makes community colleges like Harper uniquely suitable to tackle workforce development challenges like this one.  In order to close the nation's skills gap, our educational system needs to be as dynamic as our economy.  This grant is a critical investment in the Chicago metropolitan area's future.  It will give workers a cost-effective opportunity to acquire skills necessary for a 21st century workforce and provide businesses with a pipeline of talent."


Harper and its partner colleges will work with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, based in Lombard, to develop a set of eight industry-aligned certification programs designed to provide workers with the skills they need for entry and mid-level employment in supply chain management positions.  The program will include industry approved internships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training with local companies.  The multi-state nature of the partnership will ensure that the standards it develops remain consistent across the country.


Harper, based in Palatine, will receive a total of $1,151,000 under the grant.  In addition to developing the certification program, the college will use those funds to create a supply chain management computer lab and engage with students and employers for outreach and job placement.  The school will partner with Northwestern, which is also receiving $250,000 and already offers a Master's program in supply chain management, on the development of the program's academic components.  Other partners providing industry expertise and job training opportunities include Eagle Training Services, Motorola Solutions, Northrup Grumman, UPS, the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Schaumburg Business Association, and the Schaumburg Center for Economic Development.


According to a report by Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, 97,000 job openings are expected in the Chicago region in the top twenty supply management positions by 2018.  Nationwide, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that supply chain management jobs will grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, almost double the growth rate for all occupations.  The median salary for a Distribution Manager in Illinois is $71,183.


In July, Durbin joined U.S. Senator Al Franken in introducing a bill that will help train two million Americans for jobs in high-demand industries – such as health care, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and information technology – by promoting partnerships between two-year colleges and businesses with funding through a competitive grant program.


Durbin's Community College to Career Fund Act would create a competitive grant program to fund partnerships that focus on valuable job training-related efforts, such as registered apprenticeships, on-the-job training opportunities, and paid internships for low-income students that allow them simultaneously to earn credit for work-based learning in a high-skill field. The bill contains incentives for these programs to help students find employment, setting aside additional money for programs with high job placement rates.  It also makes grants available to states, so that they may work with businesses having trouble filling vacant positions, and to entrepreneurs seeking to start their own business.