Regional Workforce Development Update

In every sales pitch, any region in the U.S.A. will cite the following advantages they hold over other regions:

  • Can reach 75% of the U.S.A. by truck within 24 hours
  • Has available land
  • Offers incentives such as TIF Districts or Enterprise Zones

The one item that separates the Rockford Region, which also has the assets mentioned above, is the workforce and the workforce talent supply chain.

The Rockford Region has established nimble, industry-specific, and customized education-to-workforce pipelines ensuring the region has the skilled workforce essential to fulfilling the requirements of jobs that are good today, tomorrow, and in the future.

This workforce solution is what sets the region apart. We have begun to build the education-to-workforce pipelines needed to support our aerospace, advanced manufacturing, automotive, and healthcare industries.

Northern Illinois University (NIU) and Rock Valley College (RVC) have partnered to provide a four-year, ABET accredited, mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree program. This program is located on the RVC campus and costs less than $40,000 for all four years. The program provides the curriculum as well as the opportunity for establishing mentorships and internships with businesses located in the Rockford Region.

Rock Valley College has invested in an Aviation Maintenance Technology Program located at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. This program provides a direct talent supply chain to the AAR maintenance repair and overhaul facility. Each federally-licensed graduate from the program has had 2,000 hours of instruction and is guaranteed an interview with AAR.

Supporting the expanding healthcare system in the Rockford Region is possible through the Saint Anthony College of Nursing and the U of I Chicago College of Medicine programs. The Saint Anthony College of Nursing offers a four-year nursing degree program located at newly constructed Health Sciences Center on the Rock Valley College campus. The U of I College of Medicine now provides all four-years of coursework on the Rockford Campus.

Rockford Career College, one of a few options for CNC (computer numerical control) programs. Students in the program learn to set-up and operate a CNC machine as well as programming in a manufacturing environment.

TechWorks offers the only cold forming education facility of its kind in the U.S.A. TechWorks has partnered with Rock Valley College to provide a 170 (SB180) hour, 8-week Fast-Track skills training that leads to a NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) credential in Metalworking Skills Machining Level 1 Skills Standard.

There are also apprenticeship programs offered by regional trade unions. Taught by skilled craftsmen, apprentices earn a living wage throughout the education process. When the apprenticeship is complete, workers receive an internationally-recognized trade certification. Depending on the chosen program, apprentices may also earn college credits or an associate’s degree.

The community has collaborated on these program as we differentiate ourselves and ensure the region has the skilled workforce needed to support these jobs that are good today, tomorrow, and in the future. Together we have started down a road many other regions have yet to identify. We have created examples to be proud of and commit to continue to build more successful programs.