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Illinois Central College looking for next generation of technical workers

Peoria (WEEK) — Illinois Central College is gearing up for a first-of-its-kind expo next week that they hope will attract the future trade and technical workers of our area.

“We find ourselves in a very unique position right now in terms of the unemployment rate and in terms of the job gaps,” ICC President Sheila Quirk-Bailey said. “There are employers that are just hurting, begging, for these technical skills, and we don’t have enough individuals in our region to do those jobs.”

The event, which they’re calling The Ready to Work Expo, will highlight the college’s technical courses and certifications. They say they’re showing off everything from industrial technology to agriculture.

Curt Rippey has been with ICC for more than 30 years, most recently as their welding coordinator. He’s seen the public attitude towards trade jobs swing over the decades from in demand to looked-down on and now back again.

“There’s been a big growth in welding,” he said. “We’re up 165% from last year at this time.”

Welding is one of the programs ICC says shows off the spectrum and customization of their planned offerings next week. They tell us a welding student who starts in August could have a job paying $14-16 per hour by November.

“If you can weld and you want to work right now you can get a job,” Rippey said.

Quirk-Bailey says the programs are available to people of all ages and backgrounds. High school graduates and retirees alike may find a new career or hobby.

“We talk a lot in this region about not everybody needs to go to college, and that’s actually not true,” she said. “More than 70% of the jobs in this region require a credential past high school.”

While the traditional semester starts in August, Quirk-Bailey says some of their programs have multiple start times throughout the school year to fit into people’s lives. After that, graduation depends on the trade. A CNC programmer may take a year to be certified, but their truck driving course is a four-week “boot camp” that she says could result in a job paying $50,000 per year as soon as it’s over.

“I hope this expo really helps and brings in people that go, ‘I’d like to see what this is about, what is CNC, what are they doing, what do they make?'” Rippey said. “Same with welding. ‘Where are they working, what do they make, where can I get a job at?'”

The expo runs on Thursday July 11 from 5-7 p.m. and Friday July 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. If you can’t make it, Quirks-Bailey recommends reaching out to the college to get in touch with a program you’re interested in.

Bobby Oler @bobbyoler

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