WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) has announced that the Department of Labor has awarded about $9.9 million in funding to a consortium led by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville of four community colleges, including Lewis and Clark Community College.
The Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy consortium will use the funding to create and expand partnerships between community colleges and businesses to educate and train workers.
“This funding is an investment in our workforce, our economy, and our country’s future,” Durbin said. “As the largest and most affordable sector of the nation’s higher education system, community colleges are uniquely positioned to help close the skills gap, put people back to work, and fill critical shortages at growing businesses and manufacturers.”
The consortium will use this funding to partner with regional employers in the field of bioprocessing and water management. Members of the consortium will work together to identify gaps in the industry’s workforce needs and to develop job-training programs that help meet those needs.
As the lead institution in the consortium, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will receive about $5.8 million. The following colleges also will receive funding:
- Lewis and Clark Community College, $1.49 million
- Lincoln Land Community College, $882,863
- Carl Sandburg College, $1 million
- Southeastern Illinois College, $750,065
Last year, Durbin joined U.S. Sen. Al Franken in introducing a bill that will help train 2 million Americans for jobs in high-demand industries – such as health care, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and information technology – by promoting partnerships between two-year colleges and businesses with funding through a competitive grant program. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that as many as 600,000 jobs nationwide are unfilled because businesses cannot find workers with the right skills — also known as the “skills gap.”
Durbin’s Community College to Career Fund Act would create a competitive grant program to fund partnerships that focus on job training-related efforts, such as registered apprenticeships, on-the-job training opportunities, and paid internships for low-income students that allow them simultaneously to earn credit for work-based learning in a high-skill field. The bill contains incentives for these programs to help students find employment, setting aside additional money for programs with high job placement rates. It also makes grants available to states, so they may work with businesses having trouble filling vacant positions, and to entrepreneurs seeking to start their own business.