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U.S. Department of Labor Awards L&C Nearly $1.5 Million to Advance the L&C’s Process Operations Technology Program

Article by: Lori Artis, lartis@lc.edu
GODFREY – Lewis and Clark Community College is one of five higher education institutions awarded a $10 million grant by the U.S. Department of Labor to advance Illinois’ bioeconomy.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (serving as the lead), Lewis and Clark, Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg and Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg have formed the Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy (BIB) consortium, which was awarded $9,956,011 as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative. The grant was announced this week by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as part of a $450 million job-driven training grant program that has assisted nearly 270 colleges across the country.

The grants provide institutions of higher education with funds to partner with employers to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career-training programs that will help job seekers get to the skills they need for in-demand jobs in industries like information technology, healthcare, energy and advanced manufacturing.

Lewis and Clark will receive approximately $1.5 million in funds from the grant to enhance and expand its Process Operations Technology Program.

“The Lewis and Clark Community College Process Operations Technology Program offers tremendous opportunity for area residents to develop the technical skills required to build a lifelong career in this high paying career field,” Lewis and Clark President Dale Chapman said. “The Department of Labor recognizes the importance of closing the gap for the skills required for these 21st Century industrial jobs and the role that community colleges can play in advancing skills training and connecting employers to a skilled workforce.

This collaborative project funded by the Department of Labor will further enhance our accredited Process Operations Technology Program. Among numerous curriculum enhancements, this funding will allow our students to begin utilizing and running a micro-refinery at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) in Edwardsville, which will be the best simulation of process controls any student will access before entering the workforce.”

NCERC, located at SIUE, is a nationally recognized research center dedicated to the development and commercialization of biofuels, specialty chemicals and other renewable compounds. The Center’s fully functional dry grind pilot plant and laboratories are equipped with advanced biofuels capabilities including corn fractionation, pretreatment and a fermentation suite with 5, 30, 150 and 1500L scale-up. Industry veterans with more than 100 years of collective experience in fermentation and biofuels production staff the NCERC facilities. This knowledgeable team as the flexibility and expertise to design and carry out projects in any region of the advanced biofuels or specialty chemicals space.

“In the past our students have fulfilled internship opportunities at the center, but providing them with the opportunity to fully operate this advanced microrefinery will elevate our program to an entirely new level of education and skills training,” L&C Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Sue Czerwinski said. “This hands-on experience will give L&C graduates an unparalleled training opportunity.”

L&C’s process operations technology program was developed in collaboration with Phillps66 in Wood River and in consultation with the North American Process Technology Alliance (NAPTA) and the Sigma Aldrich partnership, which resulted in a professional and focused plan of study.

Process technicians learn the operations of furnaces, distillation columns, reboilers, heat exchangers, steam systems and cooling-water systems – the essential elements of all process industries. Graduates of L&C’s nationally accredited program qualifies graduates for a career in the nationally critical field of petroleum refining, oil and gas production, petrochemicals production, biochemical produces, base chemicals productions and power generation.

“There are great employment demands for PTEC students both regionally and nationally,” Program Coordinator Alan Foster said. “Our students are highly recruited, and the average graduate can expect to earn an income ranging from $50,000-$80,000 annually immediately upon completing this two-year degree program.”

The grant will also provide funding to enhance curriculum and training opportunities at SIUE’s Environmental Resources Training Center for Lewis and Clark students in Storm Water Management and Waste Water Treatment Technology programs. The college will also expand its Restoration Ecology program to create a Green Roof Certificate.

“This grant award represents a tremendous opportunity for SIUE, Lewis and Clark, and the entire region,” said NCERC Executive Director John Caupert. “By merging the strengths of our institutions, we will create unprecedented learning experiences for students that couple hands-on learning experiences and innovative online learning tools delivered by world class educators and industry leaders. We look forward to partnering with Lewis and Clark and all of our Consortium partners to prepare our students for good-paying, highly skilled jobs in the bioeconomy”

BIB aims to merge the collective strengths and resources of each partner school with a network of committed employers to establish a transformative series of career pathways. This comprehensive plan will connect veterans, TAA-eligible workers, unemployed persons, underserved minorities, and rural workers with in-demand careers that directly contribute to Illinois’ and the nation’s economic and environmental sustainability.

This is the second TAACCCT grant received by Lewis and Clark Community College. In 2013 the Department of Labor awarded a nine-member community college consortium, led by Lewis and Clark, a $23.8 million grant to advance economic development in the Mississippi River region, from the headwaters to the Gulf, through the placement of dislocated and other workers in high-wage, high-skill occupations in the vital transportation, distribution and logistics (TDL) and related industry sectors. Lewis and Clark shared $4.9 million of the grant.