by Nancy Sweet, interim dean, Applied and Emerging Technologies, Lincoln Land Community College
I’m Nancy Sweet, the interim dean of Lincoln Land Community College’s (LLCC’s) Applied and Emerging Technologies Department. You may have seen me writing for the SJR’s Epicuriosity column the past few years as LLCC’s director of culinary arts. Recently, I’ve taken on this new assignment, and I’m learning more about the real need for more skilled workers in our economy.
LLCC’s Applied and Emerging Technologies department offers programs that work to help meet the workforce needs of local businesses. These programs focus on two areas of excellence: transportation and industrial. Transportation programs include automotive technology, aviation mechanics and aviation management, truck driver training and IDOT Highway Construction. A quick search on Indeed.com shows over 100 open full-time positions in this area for those jobs. Vehicles are becoming more complex with high-tech computer systems that require up-to-date training. Airline travel is at an all-time worldwide high, and aviation mechanics continue to be in demand.
Industrial programs focus on other hands-on skills training such as welding, HVACR, electrical lineman, industrial maintenance, commercial electrical maintenance and construction. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2016-2026 the need for electrical power line installers and repairers is projected to grow 14 percent. The Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration industry continues to integrate advanced technologies to become smarter and more efficient, making training a necessity.
On Tuesday, July 16, from 6 – 8 p.m., LLCC is hosting a Transportation and Industrial Expo at our Workforce Careers Center to showcase these programs to our community. This is a chance for people looking for hands-on career training to learn more about these job-focused courses and about the careers they lead to. Prospective students can see the labs where they will learn, talk with their instructors and start the first steps to enroll. This expo is the first step for those who want high quality, affordable training to get jobs that turn into careers.
These skills are in high demand for several reasons. In recent years there has been a nation-wide push to encourage high school graduates to go to college for academic degrees versus focusing on workforce training in industrial and other trades. Not only did this create a serious skilled-worker shortage, it also diminished the image of these jobs, creating a false stigma that they couldn’t provide a path to a long-term stable career.
Estimates show that for every skilled worker coming into the workforce, there are five who will be retiring within five years. There are simply not enough trained workers to take their place. Unions, construction firms, logistical and trucking companies, automotive dealerships and utility companies will be facing a severe worker shorter over the next generation.
Furthermore, this industry has struggled to maintain a diverse workforce. Industry is changing and diverse groups are critical to success. Companies need skilled workers, and they are broadening their pools to encourage more minority and female applicants. They realize a more diversified and inclusive workplace can make them a preferred employer.
Many jobs require some post-high school education. But many of these careers can get started with just a certificate program lasting less than one year. If a person decides later that an associate degree is needed to further advance their career into management, they can start that path when it works for their lifestyle.
We realize that the area workforce needs skilled workers, and we know that people want good jobs. The jobs in these fields are available now – locally and beyond. It’s a matter of connecting people with these hands-on programs and getting them trained, hired and ultimately working in a career.
There’s still time to get started in these programs this fall. To learn more about a new career, attend the July 16 Transportation and Industrial Expo at the Workforce Careers Center at LLCC, 5250 Shepherd Road in Springfield. Register today www.llcc.edu/expo or call 217-786-2577.