August 11, 2011
By Doug Wilson
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon sees the John Wood Community College Workforce Development Center is "a direct channel to a job" in local industry.
After her tour of the 30,000-square-foot facility at 4220 Koch's Lane, the former Southern Illinois University law professor stood on a ramp as a JWCC truck driver trainee practiced backing his rig into a loading area.
"No one is practicing law without a little bit or training or backing up a semi without a little training," she said.
The Workforce Development Center provides that training for truck drivers, electricians, building trades workers, computer design workers, forklift operators and industrial machine operators.
David Del Castillo, a graduate of the JWCC industrial training segment, said the training has changed his life. Castillo works at Knapheide Manufacturing and upgraded his skills after he was temporarily laid off. He now is a right-angle laser machine operator at Knapheide and will be a more valuable member of the work force.
During an earlier tour of JWCC's main campus, Simon heard about the "career ladders" program that allows students to earn associate degrees through certificate training.
JWCC President Tom Klincar said the certificate programs are short-term, affordable and build students' confidence.
"Before they know it, they'll have earned a degree and increased pay that goes along with it," Klincar said.
Stackable certificates are available in landscaping and turfgrass management programs, where certificates earned in one field reduce the amount of hours needed to complete the second and third certificates in a sequence. More career ladder programs will be available in construction management fields.
After her college tour, Simon took a kayak tour and met with the Quincy Bay Area Restoration and Enhancement Association. The Quincy Convention and Visitors Bureau has been offering a Kayak Quincy program, and Simon keeps tabs on tourism efforts in the state.
"This is a beautiful part of the state and not everyone thinks of rolling hills and rivers when you think of the state of Illinois" or realize the tourist attractions that are in place, Simon said.
State tourism statistics are up from last year, showing either steady growth or a bounce back from the recession, depending on the specific tourism niche.