DU PAGE, IL - Illinois' unemployment rate remains at historic highs, yet manufacturers in the northwest suburbs say hundreds of jobs are going unfilled every month because of a shortage of skilled workers.

To address the problem, Harper College will begin a new Advanced Manufacturing Program designed to train workers to fill open jobs in as little as 18 months.

"It's critical that we train workers for 21st century jobs," said Harper College President Ken Ender. "These aren't stereotypical factories anymore. It's high-tech manufacturing using state-of-the-art equipment that requires good math and computer skills as well as critical thinking."

Developed in close partnership with area manufacturers, Harper's Advanced Manufacturing program incorporates several new and innovative practices:

A student can earn industry-endorsed skills certificates, which are recognized and accepted by local employers, in less than a year;

A paid internship with one of 54 manufacturing partners. Students can earn while they learn and manufacturers can try out and mentor potential employees;

Certificates in four general areas: Precision Machining, Mechatronics/Automation, Metal Fabrication and Supply Chain Management. Each certificate is "stackable," which means they merge seamlessly into clear pathways for associate and bachelor degrees.

Two local manufacturing executives, Warren Young, CEO of Acme Industries in Elk Grove Village, and Mike Alagna, COO of Nation Pizza and Foods in Schaumburg, recruited over fifty companies to provide paid internships to help students get a feel for manufacturing as a career choice.

"My business is at stake," said Young. "We can't continue the manufacturing renaissance if we don't have a pipeline of skilled people who can come in and do the work. You can't put someone without credentials in front of a $500,000 machine and say, 'Here, run this.'"

"Manufacturing has gone from turning a nut with a wrench to high-tech," said Alagna. "It's important to change old perceptions of manufacturing. These are good, clean, high-paying jobs."

Harper's Advanced Manufacturing program is also designed to encourage younger students to consider a career in manufacturing. Students can earn college credit in Harper's program while they are still in high school.

More than ever, it is critically important that schools engage students in their potential futures" said Lopez. "By earning college credit and certifications in high school, students are more engaged, they perform better academically and it opens up clear pathways to potential careers."

Harper's Advanced Manufacturing program begins this fall. For more information, log onto www.harpercollege.edu or call 847.925. 6700.

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