INA – U.S. Representative John Shimkus is scheduled to present Rend Lake College a $1.6 million grant Wednesday morning. The grant, earmarked for training the future coal workforce of the region, is part of President George Bush’s $125 million Community-Based Job Training Grant initiative awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor to 69 community colleges and community-based organizations, located in 36 states across the nation.
Shimkus (R-Illinois-19) will present a check to RLC President Mark S. Kern during a 10 a.m. ceremony in the RLC Theater. Congressman Shimkus is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as it’s Subcommittees on Telecommunications and the Internet, and Energy and Air Quality. He is a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and is the chief sponsor of a bill to authorize the Secretary of Energy to make price floor loans to certain low-carbon, coal-to-liquid fuel projects.
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. The program was reinstituted by the RLC Board of Trustees in 2006 in response to mining activity in the area.
“In the late ‘70s, coal mining was one of the dominant industries in this region,” Kern 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.”
In addition to training a proposed 420 coal mining technology students – particularly in the areas of mine construction and for occupations in coal production, with specific emphasis on welding and production coal mining – the funding will bring dual-credit classes in mining technology to area high schools in Benton, Pinckneyville, Sesser, Christopher and Hamilton County. Additionally, funding will go to raising students’ awareness about occupations in the coal industry at 15 area grade schools.
RLC’s competitive grant proposal was one of 69 chosen from among 341 applications the USDL received in response to a competition announced Aug. 8.