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Lt. Governor Simon welds at SWIC, East St. Louis 

March 7, 2011

BELLEVILLE – Welding torch in hand, Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today got a goggle-eye view of a career program offered by Southwestern Illinois College.

Simon visited the SWIC welding laboratories at the Belleville Campus, and at the off-campus site at East St. Louis Community College Center, as part of her statewide campaign to increase college completion rates. The Welding Technology program is one of 150 degree and occupational certificate program options offered by SWIC to prepare students to advance their educations and/or enter the regional workforce upon completion.

“Two-thirds of jobs in the future will require a college degree or meaningful certificate, but only 40 percent of our workforce has attained that level of education. You can do the math to see our future is at risk,” Simon said. 

Simon announced in February that the state wants to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent by 2025. This way, Illinois will have the highly skilled and educated workforce necessary to fill jobs of the future. 

To help improve student retention and completion, SWIC established a Success Center with federal Title III grant dollars in 2000. Peer and professional tutors offer walk-in assistance to students, who can also submit papers to an Online Writing Lab for tutors to review. 

“’Student Success’ tops our list of institutional values,” said Southwestern Illinois College President Georgia Costello. “As proof of that focus, our Success Centers served nearly 7,500 students last year. Proudly, we help students learn.” 

Those 7,500 students – half the students enrolled each semester – made nearly 100,000 visits to the Success Centers college-wide last year.  

As the Governor’s point person on education, Simon will visit all 48 Illinois community colleges this year to see how they are addressing the new completion goal and connecting students to the workforce, before making policy recommendations to the Governor. 

The Welding Technology program was established in 1975 in response to industry demand for more qualified welders in the region. At the time, welding was only taught in St. Louis. Today, SWIC enrolls more than 900 welding students at its three campus and off-campus sites throughout the district.

SWIC offers three welding certificate options, each attainable in one full-time semester, in addition to a two-year associate’s degree that transfers to a bachelor’s degree program at Ferris State University in Michigan. The welding laboratory is open six days per week, 70 hours per week to maximize hands-on experience. Day students attend classes four or five days per week; night students attend classes two or three nights per week.