ICC unveils new labs for student skills at Workforce Sustainability Center
After almost a decade of development, the Workforce Sustainability Center at Illinois Central College is just about ready for the first classes in new workshops and labs.
The roughly $16 million project is based at a new building on ICC’s East Peoria campus. The building hosts programs designed to get students a certificate or associate’s degree and on their way to a family-sustaining income.
Classes at the center include courses on HVAC and solar engineering, highway construction and truck driver training. The entire building is designed to accommodate the hands-on needs of these topics; a portion of the building’s wiring and HVAC system is prominently visible with color-coded labels.
“You need a special building infrastructure and design if you're really going to do heavy equipment training,” said ICC president Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey. “So, all of that was designed into this building, as well as some flexibility. So if in time period two, we need less HVAC, and more something else, we can actually do that in this building.”
The building serves as a solution to a growing need in the Peoria area workforce, particularly in trade fields and growing sectors like solar.
Solar Technical Trainer Kyle Barber said opportunities in solar are growing after the passage of the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.
“It is estimated that we need 40,000 people and we have about 6,000 people in the industry right now.” he said.
In the new workspace, Barber’s students will be able to see and interact with an operating solar panel on the roof of the new building.
“We're not just teaching people to install,” he said. “We're also teaching them to sell, design, maintenance, site surveying, kind of get the whole gamut of the solar industry so that they can choose.”
The choices offered at the Workforce Sustainability Center are important to State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, who helped advocate for the state and federal funding used to construct the building.
“It's really setting this region up to be able to take advantage of all of these jobs of today and for the future,” she said. “So when we think about the growth that we all want to see in this region, ICC is a critical and vital component to the growth of this region.”
As Quirk-Bailey points out, the center also has the potential to assist in efforts like talent attraction.
“We're here to make sure our workforce continues to grow and thrive,” she said. “So, we want to make that sustainable. Companies won't continue to come here if they don't think they have the employees they need.”
Employees like ICC student Wyatt Rumbold, who recently won first place in the HVAC competition at Skills USA, a national showcase of the country’s best technical education students.
“Having this new building will be extremely helpful for future students pursuing a degree in heating and cooling,” said Rumbold. “Not only will this new building allow for more space in classrooms, but it will also allow us to work on newer equipment like the systems we were working on and installing out in the field.”
The first classes at the Workforce Sustainability Center start in two weeks.