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Illinois Central College President Sees Change On The Rise

ICC
Jeffrey Smudde
/
WCBU
Like other schools, Illinois Central College switched to online courses almost exclusively last spring to safeguard students and faculty from COVID-19.

Sheila Quirk-Bailey has seen plenty of change in the five years she’s served as president of Illinois Central College — and that’s fine with her.

The biggest change has been in the delivery of instruction.

“Prior to the pandemic, only about 15% of our classes were online,” she said.

Like other schools, ICC switched to online courses almost exclusively last spring to safeguard students and faculty from COVID-19.

“We couldn’t be more positive about the fall semester. We have learned so much from COVID,” said Quirk-Bailey.

“Students are now telling us that 40 to 50% would prefer to continue online. We’ve learned new and different ways to present material to make information available to students in their time frame,” she said.

“Most of our courses are going to start to work towards a hybrid model. Students liked taped lectures. Maybe they go back and review them before a test,” said Quirk-Bailey.

Dual degree program

ICC is working on change in other ways.

Last month, 15 Peoria high school students received associate’s degrees along with their high school diplomas in the first graduation of students in the D2 program, a joint effort between the college and Peoria Public Schools.

“You know those lines between higher education and K through 12? That’s all history. We really need to start thinking about where our students are and what are they are capable of,” she said.

Quirk-Bailey also pointed to another program representing the college’s continued efforts to provide workforce training.

“We’re getting ready to start our second cohort in the Taft Homes training program,” she said, referring to the Peoria public-housing project now undergoing a facelift.

Those in the program are picking up all the essential skills required for demolition work, said Quirk-Bailey, noting that residents involved will not only assist in demolition of the homes but “come out of this with work experience in this area.”

Quirk-Bailey credited Carl Cannon, chair of the Peoria Housing Authority as well a member of the ICC board, for helping to develop the program.

Another workforce initiative, the school’s apprenticeship program, continues to develop, she said.

“One (apprenticeship) class has graduated and is out working, making between $19 and $30 an hour,” said Quirk-Bailey. “Another group will start in the fall. We’ve got eight companies signed up with another five working through the details."

American firms still lag behind their European counterparts when it comes to recognizing the benefits of an apprenticeship program, said Quirk-Bailey.

“The biggest barrier to this program being more popular is just the way companies currently run their budgets. At first, taking on an apprentice feels like a new expense. Once you have the program up and running, you realize how much time and energy it can save you,” she said.

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