CHICAGO, IL – On the heels of her first public speech today in her new role as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen toured City Colleges of Chicago’s College to Careers Program in Advanced Manufacturing to learn how the workforce program successfully prepares Chicago residents for jobs in high-tech manufacturing. Through the College to Careers initiative launched by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chancellor Cheryl Hyman in December 2011, City Colleges has partnered with 150 industry-leading companies to revamp manufacturing and other occupational programs to ensure students receive relevant, hands-on training and access to living-wage jobs with opportunities for long-term career growth. Chair Yellen joined Chancellor Hyman on a visit to the manufacturing lab at Daley College, one of the seven City Colleges, to see students in action designing parts using CAD programming, building parts on Haas machines, welding metals together at high heat and learning the basic building blocks of machining on manual machines. An estimated 14,000 job openings in the manufacturing industry are expected to be available over the next decade in the Chicago region, a figure that may grow with the recent $70 million federal investment in a Chicago-based digital manufacturing institute aimed at developing new innovations, and City Colleges is working to ensure its students are prepared to seize the jobs of today and tomorrow.
"Through College to Careers we are addressing the skills gap in the Chicago area. We are focusing our career programs on high-growth industries in our region and working with industry partners to ensure that we prepare our students with the relevant skills employers demand,” said Cheryl L. Hyman, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago. “Students in our College to Careers program want more than a job and a steady paycheck; they want a career with opportunity for growth.”
In both City Colleges’ manufacturing certificate and degree programs, Chicagoans learn skills that prepare them for Computer Numerical Control and Machining careers. Students who graduate with an associate degree in advanced manufacturing are qualified for entry-level manufacturing jobs paying $45-60,000 annually with the opportunity for significant growth within only a few years. In certificate programs, students gain marketable, industry-recognized credentials from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) that help them move up the career ladder while earning a degree.
“Employers don’t want someone who is trained to do just one thing anymore but instead are asking us to provide hands-on training and transferable skills,” said Ray Prendergast, Dean of College to Careers in Advanced Manufacturing for City Colleges of Chicago. “The manufacturing workplace is changing rapidly as new digital technologies roll out—it’s not the dirty job everyone remembers. Today, students with a solid foundation in math, mechanical and computer programming skills are in high demand.”
In a shifting manufacturing landscape, staying ahead of the curve is critical to ensuring students are prepared for tomorrow’s jobs today. Through College to Careers, investments have been made in the advanced manufacturing program with the guidance and input of manufacturing partners. In fact, Daley College is the only educational institution in Illinois with two high-tech welding machines that give students access to hands-on training. The college recently acquired the VRTEX 360 training system, which allows students to practice welding virtually, and a robotic welding educational cell.
The advanced manufacturing program has experienced a 50-percent jump in enrollment over last year and job placement success has been on the rise. All of the certificate students in the most recent cohort of Daley College’s Calumet Green Manufacturing program, which is funded through the Department of Labor’s Green Jobs Innovation Fund, found jobs within their field. Since the College to Careers initiative launched its first programs in Fall 2012, more than 9,500 students have enrolled in College to Careers fields leading to occupational certificates and associate degrees. In addition, more than 1,200 students were placed in jobs and paid internships within a College to Careers industry since the launch of initiative.