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SCIGA Luncheon Held; Group Learns About Area SCIGA Initiatives


The South Central Illinois Growth Alliance (SCIGA) held its monthly meeting on the campus of Kaskaskia College November 29th.


SCIGA President and Mayor of Breese, Charlie Hilmes welcomed the crowd to the luncheon and thanked the College for hosting the event.


New Kaskaskia College Interim President and Secretary for SCIGA George Evans told the crowd of over 40 about new initiatives the College is using to attract area students to vocational careers in the Career and Technical Education fields.  He spoke briefly about the Skills Gap that shows a significant gap between an organization's skill needs and the current capabilities to fill those needs with skilled labor.  Evans told the group that workers in the skilled trades workforce is aging and that communities looking to attract businesses, must be able to supply a workforce to be successful.


To bring more attention to this critical need, Kaskaskia and SCIGA hosted a Critical Skills Gap Awareness Summit on July 21, 2017 at the Crisp Technology Center. The summit brought together local, municipal, business and education leaders, as well as a number of area manufacturers to highlight the shortage of skilled labor in the region and begin planning how to address those shortages. Evans noted, in order to make this happen, at both the grade school and high schools, city and county governments, manufacturers, state leaders and Kaskaskia College must all work together. 


According to Evans, “When business and industry struggles with maintaining appropriate employment levels, production drops and when production drops, the ripple effects can have devastating effects to the business and region as a whole.”  Evans went on to say that all of the district high schools possess populations of students who may not be college ready or have no desire to attend college, but have the potential to be successful in the manufacturing and vocational industries.  In an effort to begin reaching that population Evans told the group was, to borrow a phrase from Mike Rowe of the television series “Dirty Jobs”, to make work cool again. 


So, during the months of October and November, SCIGA invited grade school and high school students to visit local manufacturers so students can develop a better understanding of their career potential in the career and trades field.  Students from 11 area junior high and high schools attended tours in Marion, Washington and Clinton counties, learning first-hand how the company works, from the front office to the manufacturing floor.  Through the tours, and meeting with company personnel, students learned of the career opportunities available to them, how much these jobs pay, and what steps they can take to obtain the skills and training necessary to obtain those jobs. 


Crystal Nussel, Training & Development Coordinator for Nascote Industries about the Magna Track Program that was started at Nascote in 2015 in a partnership with KC.  The program is aimed at investing in high school seniors that have a desire to obtain a good job with a great company.  Upon successful completion of The Magna Track requirements, students will be offered a full time job with the company that includes benefits.  Nussel says that Nascote believes in no student debt and are in need of good skilled workers.  She says, “The Magna Track Program is a win-win solution that serves the students, the community and the manufacturers for long term growth and prosperity. 


Nussel added that Nascote and KC have had a wonderful partnership over the years and a new initiative is their Apprenticeship Program that is offered in the KC Industrial Technology Program   She added that currently Nascote has 100 positions available and they are looking to fill these positions.


Jeanne Gustafson, Economic Development Director for the City of Salem and Nic Farley with the Salem City Council also spoke to the group.  Gustafson explained the purpose of an Enterprise Zone and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Farley explained some new ideas and how to incorporate TIF dollars to assist in training local workforce. 


Farley feels that “the manufacturing jobs in career and technical need to be reinforced at the grade school level and reinforced again with high schoolers.  After attending the Skills Gap Summit, he visited with Salem Superintendent, John Boles, and asked if Salem could possibly bring back the Construction Trades Program.  Farley explained that beginning in the fall, Salem students will start the process to build a home with the students as key builders and the school will be able to keep the revenue from the sale of the property and house to fund future trade programs in the city of Salem. 


Farley also talked about the Before/After School Project where TIF funds will be used to offset costs of training for manufacturers in the district.  This will also be done with no cost to the student.  Manufacturers will pinpoint skills needed for the training and the companies will give these students priority in hiring.  This idea will also help with ongoing training needs.


Bill Walker with the City of Greenville also spoke to the crowd about a new initiative called the CEO Program that works with students from Bond County High School.   The Program brings the students together to prepare them to be responsible, enterprising individuals who later become entrepreneurs who contribute to economic development and sustainable communities.  Walker says, “The CEO Program is an excellent opportunity to teach our youth who will have vision for our hometowns in the future.

Evans also explained how Kaskaskia College is also assisting with the renovation and remodel of the Harry L. Crisp Technology Center renovation and remodel.  Evans says, “A $2.5 million dollar remodel and revamp of industrial classrooms and spaces was completed at the Crisp Center.  Kaskaskia now has dedicated lab spaces for the HVAC, Carpentry, Welding, Industrial Technology, Drafting and Automotive Technology.  He ended with the fact that “If we work together, we can tackle this together”.

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