While unemployment has been on the rise in central Illinois, so, too have the number of people looking to get retrained for new positions. At Illinois Central College, where enrollment is up more than 13 percent this fall, instructor Lani Greenway has had to add classes covering heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration. Other job-related centers are also bustling at ICC.
While unemployment has been on the rise in central Illinois, so, too have the number of people looking to get retrained for new positions.
At Illinois Central College, where enrollment is up more than 13 percent this fall, instructor Lani Greenway has had to add classes covering heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration.
"We had 130 students last year. This year we have 230," said Greenway.
Students can expect to find a job after the completion of the two-year program, he said. "The Department of Labor says we need to fill 40,000 (heating-air conditioning) jobs a year," said Greenway.
"I try to direct some students who complete our program to take the two-year program at Ferris State University in Michigan. When they finish that program, the starting salary averages $53,000," he said.
Other job-related centers are also bustling at ICC. "We've had to add welding classes, and the health career area just keeps growing," said Margaret Swanson, ICC's interim vice president of academic affairs. "We've also seen a rise in computer classes," she said.
The down economy also is drawing more people to the trades, said Mark Kawolsky, executive director of the National Electrical Contractors Association's Peoria office.
"We had 400 people apply for apprentice positions this year. Normally we get between 200 and 250," he said. Unfortunately for those applicants, a down economy also has meant fewer positions are available.
"We only selected 15 apprentices this year when normally we have between 35 and 40," said Kawolsky, who expects things to pick up next year.
Stimulus funds have been a boost for the Illinois Welding School, said Valerie Doll, coordinator of student services. "Stimulus funding has helped provide assistance for students as well as providing jobs for graduates," she said.
"We've had a lot more attention drawn to our school. Enrollment has increased at both our locations - in Bartonville and Romeoville," said Doll.
The Midwest Technical Institute in East Peoria also is getting more attention, said school President Beth Anderson. "We have 230 students now. Our goal is to have between 400 and 500 by this time next year," she said.
The institute has been growing rapidly, said Anderson. MTI started as a welding school in Lincoln in 1995 before building a branch in Springfield in 2007 and the East Peoria branch opening in March, she said. MTI has courses in mechanical trades such as welding and heating and air conditioning and in allied health care services, such as medical technicians and dental assistants.
"We graduate a class every nine months," said Anderson.
Technical training is getting greener, said Ginger Johnson, executive director of the not-for-profit Tri-County Construction Labor-Management Council, referring to building programs involving environmental benefits.
"TRICON, Workforce Development and ICC are setting up a green training program. We want to establish a green associate's degree at ICC," Johnson said.
"Classes are open to anyone. Some of the participants have building experience. Others have been laid off from other jobs," she said.
The green movement is another reason for retraining, said ICC's Greenway. "The greener the field gets, the more they'll need trained people to deal with the new technology," he said.
Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.