INA - Rend Lake College President Mark S. Kern welcomed U.S. Congressman John Shimkus and John Fabick of Fabick Caterpillar at a presentation and tour of the new RLC Applied Science Center held Friday evening inside the facility. Among others, the new facility houses the Wireless Technology program as well as the Heavy Equipment Technology program partnered by Fabick Caterpillar and RLC.
Shimkus was instrumental in securing funding for the equipment at the RLC Applied Science Center which opened in 2005.
Kern told the Republican congressman from Collinsville that the 2005-06 school year brought with it record enrollment and added that current numbers are on pace to pass that this year. He told Shimkus what RLC does have - a number of valuable resources with the primary one being its faculty and staff. And what it does not have - a large tax base for operations.
“What we don’t have is tax dollars,” he said and pointed out that less than 15 percent of the college’s operating budget consists of property taxes paid by the 91,632 in-district residents reported on the 2001 U.S. Census.
However, RLC administrators and the college’s Board of Trustees, such as members David Edmison and Bill Simpson who attended the event, make every effort to set the school above the statewide marks in training, education and state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. One example Kern offered was the Rend Lake College MarketPlace purchased in 2002.
“Some places will rent spaces in a shopping mall,” he said. “We bought the shopping mall.”
RLC programs, such as Wireless Technology and Heavy Equipment Technology, provide “cutting-edge” training for students, he said. He mentioned that the Heavy Equipment Technology program at the college is one of only three like it in the Midwest.
Salah Shakir, Vice President of Information Technology and Student Services and a member of GWEC - the nation’s Global Wireless Education Consortium - pointed out that the Wireless Technology program at RLC has few peers in the U.S. Shakir informed Shimkus, Fabick and the rest of the audience about the evolution of wireless technology and forecasted the future in global communications, equipment and service.
He defined the generations of cellular technology - from the first cellular phone prototype built in 1973 to fourth-generation cell phones capable of storing up to a gigabyte of pictures, music, videos and more.
Part of $1.8 million in Title III funding was used to provide the Wireless Technology program. RLC was the only community college in Illinois to receive the grant for the program in 2006. It was the third time RLC received such a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Dr. Sarah Bond, Chair of the Applied Science Division at RLC, addressed Shimkus about past studies into future demand by the job market, which lead to the present programs within the Applied Science Center.
She said 24 full-time students are enrolled in the Heavy Equipment Technology program with Fabick and that “the phone has not stopped ringing.” The students have high expectations for modernized training on the latest equipment, she added.
“We hope to continue to grow,” Bond said.
Shimkus spoke about his advocacy of wireless technology and partnerships such as Fabick and RLC providing trained workers for future markets in heavy equipment. He said the parternship of Fabick and Rend Lake College is a good example of the people who provide the service and the people who need the service meeting to produce trained individuals. Legislators at the federal level are beginning to realize the importance of community colleges across the country, he added.
“We are beginning to get a better appreciation of what you all do here,” he told the classroom of RLC administrators, staff members and faculty who had gathered for the presentation. “You all are leading the way. ...I think there are only great things ahead for Rend Lake College and I want to be a part of that.”
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