INA – A $1.07 million grant awarded Monday puts Rend Lake College on the leading edge of mining technology training in Illinois.
Less than three weeks after U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Illinois-19th) visited the RLC campus with a $1.7 million federal energy grant for RLC’s mining technology program, State Rep. Kurt Granberg (D-107th) presented RLC President Mark Kern with $1,073,000 in Illinois coal development funds from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
This most recent signal of what state leaders believe is in store for Illinois coal will be used to construct a training center north of the Applied Science Center on the Ina campus to house RLC’s growing mining technology program.
“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this,” Kern said. “If you don’t have the building, you can’t put the equipment in and train the students. ... We aren’t talking about a history class. It takes considerable space ... to make this program go.”
The $1.7M grant through President Bush’s Community-Based Job Training grant initiative will be used to provide salaries, supplies and equipment for coal mining and production workforce training. With 12 area mining sites on the map – six entering the market and three within driving distance from the college – RLC and Southern Illinois will be “poised for coal’s comeback,” according to Kern.
“Rend Lake College and Southern Illinois are now well-positioned to become the leading coal mining training center in the Midwest,” Granberg said.
He thanked Governor Rod Blagojevich, as well as Jack Lavin and Bill Hoback of the Illinois DCEO, for “lobbying hard for the release of these funds.” He also congratulated Kern and retired RLC Vice President of Finance and Administration Bob Carlock on their vision finding fruition. Between lobbying, meetings, planning, more meetings and more planning – college officials pushed for more than a year to secure funding for the project, Carlock said.
The next step for college officials is to get permission from the RLC Board of Trustees to advertise for construction bids. Kern anticipates approval will be granted at the May meeting of the Board. He said groundbreaking on the training center could take place in about 12 weeks. The certificate program is set to start in the fall.
The training center will include three offices, a traditional classroom and a large, open space where the majority of training will take place,” Kern said. Another space where a mock mine is to be located is also planned in the construction. Kern said it will feature movable walls and other components, such as a pitch-black interior and a smoke machine, to simulate actual mining conditions. This feature, in which Kern said the Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals showed much interest, could be used to train mine rescue teams, not just RLC students, he added.
There will also be an outside area where fire safety training will be performed. If the college can acquire adequate machinery through donations, it could provide outdoor training on coal equipment, according to Kern.
For additional information about this release, one may contact Kern at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1243.