INA – Rend Lake College learned Wednesday that it will be awarded $1.6 million to train the region’s future coal mining workforce.
The federal funding comes as part of the U.S. Department of Labor awarding $125 million in the third competition for President’s Community-Based Job Training Grants. Prior competition winners were announced in October, 2005 and early December, 2006.
RLC will use the funding to boost its growing coal mining technology program. The program boomed with students decades ago when coal was a bull market in the region and was reinstituted by the RLC Board of Trustees in 2006 in response to mining activity in the area, according to RLC President Mark S. Kern.
“In the late ‘70s, coal mining was one of the dominant industries in this region,” he said. “But, it has been silent for long enough that we have lost an entire generation of coal miners and, with that, a tremendous amount of experience. A large number of people with no coal mining experience are going to require good training.”
The college’s competitive grant proposal was built around providing training for middle school students, high school students, traditional college students, non-traditional college students, dislocated workers, low-income students, women and minorities. The proposal stated 420 students would be trained in mine construction and for occupations in coal production – specifically welders and production coal miners – over a three-year period. The money can be used for state-of-the-art equipment, supplies and personnel.
Schools in RLC District 521 will benefit. The grant will bring dual-credit classes in mining technology to area high schools in Benton, Pinckneyville, Sesser, Christopher and Hamilton County. Additionally, funding will go toward coal mining awareness for students at 15 area grade schools.
Word came Tuesday from Washington D.C. that RLC is one of 69 community colleges and community-based organizations across the nation to receive funding from President George Bush’s grant initiative through the USDL. Rend Lake was chosen from among 341 applications the USDL received in response to a competition announced Aug. 8.
“The institutions chosen today will use the funds to prepare students for careers in high-growth industries,” a USDL release stated.
“Community colleges are in a unique position to prepare local workers for careers in high-growth industries,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “The $125 million awarded today will expand enrollment in education and training programs and provide more workers with the skills they need to succeed.”
Introduced by President Bush in his 2004 State of the Union address, Community-Based Job Training Grants improve the ability of community colleges to provide their regions’ workers with the skills needed to enter growing industries, according to the USDL.
The 69 grants awarded Wednesday will support projects in 36 states. Funding categories include advanced manufacturing; aerospace; transportation, distribution and logistics; hospitality; movie and television production; aviation; information technology; construction; biotechnology and biomanufacturing; nanotechnology; healthcare; and energy. In Illinois; the City of Peoria Workforce Development Department was allocated $2 million for healthcare, Elgin Community College was awarded $1,988,958 for healthcare, and RLC will receive $1,622,155 for energy.
“Preparing local residents for careers in growing hometown industries is critical to improving the quality of life of thousands of Americans,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Brent R. Orrell. “These programs will provide participants not only with the skills needed to gain employment but the chance to enter into careers that offer opportunities for advancement.”
For more information on the President’s Community-Based Job Training Grants, visitwww.doleta.gov
To view a complete list of award winners, visit the USDL online at www.dol.gov
For additional information about this release, one may contact Kern at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1243.