Durbin Invites Members of Illinois Job Training Program to Address Senators in Washington, DC

Harper College's Advanced Manufacturing Training Program Viewed as Innovative Model for Closing Critical Skills Gap

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Partners in Harper College’s new Advanced Manufacturing Training Program were invited by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to speak today at a meeting of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee about their innovative job training and certification program. Developed in close partnership with regional manufacturers, Harper’s program helps workers develop the skills they need to find employment in their communities and fill critical job openings at growing businesses. Photos of Durbin meeting with the program’s representatives are available here.

“Harper Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Degree and Training Program is a great example of an innovative partnership that is putting people back to work and also filling critical shortages at growing businesses and manufacturers. By teaming up with local job creators and other nearby educational institutions, this program helps determined workers develop the skills they need to find employment in their community, while also spurring local economic development. I welcome the program’s representatives to Washington and I look forward to hearing them share their experience to help apply their successful practices in communities across the country,” Durbin said.

“It’s critical that we train workers for 21st century jobs,” said Harper College President Ken Ender. “These aren’t stereotypical factories anymore. It’s high-tech manufacturing using state-of-the-art equipment that requires good math and computer skills as well as critical thinking.”

Representing the program today was Dr. Ken Ender, President of Harper College, who also serves as a member of the Workforce Board of Northern Cook County and co-chairs the Workforce Development Committee of the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents. He was joined by Michael Alagna, Chief Operating Officer of regional manufacturer Nation Pizza and Foods and Dr. Lazaro Lopez, Principal of Wheeling High School, a state and nationally recognized model STEM school.

A recent report by the Manufacturing Institute found that companies across the United States cannot fill an estimated 600,000 positions in the advanced manufacturing sector due to a shortage of skilled workers. Harper College’s program attempts to address this critical skills gap in several unique ways:

  • Students who participate in the program are able to earn industry-endorsed skills certificates, which are recognized and accepted by local employers, in less than a year;
  • The program includes a paid internship with one of fifty-four manufacturing partners, which allows students to learn skills on the job and gives manufacturers an opportunity meet and mentor potential employees;
  • Certificates are offered in four general areas (Precision Machining, Mechatronics/Automation, Metal Fabrication and Supply Chain Management) and are “stackable,” which means they merge seamlessly into a clear pathway for associates and bachelor degrees.

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee exists to foster dialogue between Senators and community leaders from across the country. Nearly every week the Senate is in session, the Steering Committee hosts meetings with advocates, organizations, policy experts, and elected officials to hear their knowledge and expertise in key issue areas.