Durbin Announces Nearly $10 Million in Workforce Development and Training Grants For Consortium Led By Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Department of Labor has awarded a total of $9,956,011 in funding through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program to a consortium led by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville of four community colleges in Southern Illinois. The Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy consortium will use this funding to create and expand innovative partnerships between community colleges and businesses to educate and train workers with the skills employers need.

“This funding is an investment in our workforce, our economy, and our country’s future,” Durbin said. “As the largest and most affordable sector of the nation’s higher education system, community colleges are uniquely positioned to help close the skills gap, put people back to work, and fill critical shortages at growing businesses and manufacturers.”

The Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy consortium will use this funding to partner with regional employers in the field of bioprocessing and water management. Members of the consortium will work together to identify gaps in the industry’s workforce needs and to develop job-training programs that help meet those needs.

As the lead institution in the consortium, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville will receive $5,776,441 in funding under this award. As members of the Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy consortium, the following Illinois community colleges will also receive funding under this announcement:

  • Lewis and Clark Community College: $1,497,168 in funding;
  • Lincoln Land Community College: $882,863 in funding;
  • Carl Sandburg College: $1,049,474 in funding; and
  • Southeastern Illinois College: $750,065 in funding.

Last year, Durbin joined U.S. Senator Al Franken in introducing a bill that will help train 2 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. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that as many as 600,000 jobs nationwide are unfilled because businesses cannot find workers with the right skills – also known as the “skills gap.”

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.