The growing relationship between Rend Lake College and top regional employer Continental Tire North America continues to prove itself as the winning connection predicted by those who saw the need for it in 1974.
A cooperative agreement between the two is producing trained individuals for CTNA while enabling the college to experience record enrollment in its Industrial Electronics Maintenance Technician program.
More than half of the students who finished their CTNA summer internships toward a degree from Rend Lake College are now well-paid employees the Mt. Vernon Plant and more are on the track to follow their example. According to Industrial Maintenance Professor Chris Nielsen, all of the interns who were offered a full-time position at the plant accepted, which is a testament to the appeal of CTNA operations and opportunities available at the Mt. Vernon plant.
The slow-starting internship venture by RLC and CTNA began last year and is anticipated to grow tremendously as more students than ever are enrolled in the Industrial Electronics Maintenance Technician program. The hike in enrollment came auspiciously on the heels of an announcement that a potential job-placement incentive was in place.
Students must complete one year of the Industrial Electronics Maintenance Technician program at RLC before they are eligible to apply for an internship position at CTNA. If plant supervisors are happy with their performance, they are offered a full-time job. It is the student’s choice to accept or reject the offer.
The 20 first-year students currently enrolled in the Industrial Electronics and Maintenance program will be eligible to apply for the internship in summer 2007. It is the largest group Nielsen has had in the program to date, he said.
The program provides students a tuition-free second year upon successful completion of the internship. There is a chance that all candidates will not be accepted for internship positions. However, every student who applied for the summer 2006 internship with CTNA was interviewed, according to Nielsen.
Rend Lake College has worked with CTNA to provide courses or training since the plant opened in 1974. That includes classes in personnel management and supervision, business communications, team building, industrial safety, quality control, motor alignment, industrial electricity/electronics and computer program and various applications, among others.
As the number of retiring maintenance department workers at CTNA continues to grow, so does the need to fill the vacancies with qualified candidates. Rend Lake College is a prime place to start training for one of those positions since plant operators require at least an associate degree of potential industrial electronics maintenance technicians at CTNA.
According to CTNA Mt. Vernon Plant Manager Hank Eisenga, the number of retiring workers throughout the plant is growing. He said CTNA will continue to benefit from the ongoing training partnership the two local entities have with one another.
In addition to a year of tuition, interns are paid approximately $13 an hour while gaining valuable hands-on training. A full-time, entry-level position in the maintenance department pays about $6 more per hour.
They are good-paying jobs in southern Illinois, said Rend Lake College Industrial Training Coordinator Sharon Bowman. She works inside the plant and oversees the training aspects that RLC offers to workers.
According to Bowman, offering an internship position is a way for CTNA to evaluate the students’ work habits as future employees.
When it comes time to offer the intern a job, “it’s not just a shot in the dark,” she said.
The internship is equally valuable to the students, she said.
“The program goes beyond just educating them. It educates them for the workplace they are entering. When they transfer to a full-time position at CTNA, they are already prepared to work here.”
To sign up for the Industrial Electronics Maintenance Technician program at RLC, or for more information, call Nielsen at 618-437-5321, ext. 1292 or Applied Science and Technology Division Chair Dr. Sarah Bond at extension 1260.