“Through our Flexco Manufacturing Certificate program, we encourage our employees to attend College of DuPage for six core classes that will advance their careers as well as make them more valuable to our company. We’re really impressed with the Manufacturing Technology program and other educational opportunities offered at COD.”
Sarah Schindlbeck, Human Resources, Flexco, Downers Grove manufacturer of products that enhance belt conveyer productivity (Photo by Lloyd DeGrane/special to College of DuPage)
At the beginning of each month, government officials release a new jobs report. Of late, it’s shown little growth in employment.
But in select industries, the demand for skilled workers far exceeds the supply. As a result, there are many high-paying jobs available to those with the training to fill them.
Now more than ever, College of DuPage is working hard to teach students who’d like to land those jobs.
One area of tremendous need is manufacturing technology.
“Manufacturing is coming back and the need for skilled labor is very high,” said Manufacturing Technology Professor Jim Filipek. “Sixty-five companies contacted us last year alone looking for multiple people. They just don’t have enough workers to fill all the needs.”
To help students get the skills they need for today’s advanced manufacturing jobs, COD offers such programs as automated manufacturing systems, drafting and design, manufacturing technology and manufacturing engineering technology. Filipek says starting salaries average $40,000 to $50,000 per year with benefits.
Most of the students in these programs are adult learners looking to add skills or change professions.
“Our students’ average age is 35,” said Filipek. “Some are changing direction; some have four-year degrees. With some majors it’s hard to get a job in a good economy, let alone a bad one. Maybe your passion is anthropology, but if you can’t get a job, you have to do something else.”
Filipek says it’s frustrating when American employers have to send work overseas because there’s more skilled labor available.
“Because of retirements within the manufacturing industry, advances in technology and our educational system’s failure to prepare for that, there are not enough skilled workers here, so employers have no choice but to take the jobs elsewhere,” said Filipek.
Another area of tremendous need being addressed by COD is commercial trucking. Industry retirements, new license requirements and other factors have left a gap estimated at 250,000 to 500,000 jobs.
COD’s new commercial drivers’ license training program, developed with private-sector partner Bell CDL Enterprises, has two levels of study—either a four-week or six-week course—and a 100-percent placement rate, most before graduation.
Program director Chris Bell said starting annual salaries for trained, licensed drivers have jumped from $35,000 two years ago to $53,000 today, with bonuses possible for on-time delivery, accident-free miles and other measures. Bell said long-haul drivers willing to be away from home most of the year can earn $100,000 to $150,000 per year.
At COD, Bell has had students aged 18 to age 71. Most are making a career change, he said, most commonly from finance, construction and real estate.
Contrary to stereotype, the trucking industry is not just for men.
“There are about 200,000 women drivers out there,” said Bell, “and more being added all the time.”
Get Ready to Roll “It’s pretty appealing for people who’ve been unemployed or underemployed to walk in, take a four-week or six-week class, earn their license and have a good-paying job even before
Chris Bell, director of COD’s new commercial drivers’ license training program
Bell said COD’s program sells itself. “It’s pretty appealing for people who’ve been unemployed or underemployed to walk in, take a four-week or six-week class, earn their license and have a good-paying job even before they graduate.”
Other COD programs—for such jobs as pharmacy technicians, dental assistants, veterinary assistants, certified personal trainers, project managers, dental hygienists and sonographers—are helping meet industry shortages, too.
That’s why the White House and others interested in U.S. economic recovery are touting the critical importance of community colleges.
“In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience,” said President Barack Obama. “We will not fill those jobs—or keep those jobs on our shores—without the training offered by community colleges.”