WANTED: Applicants who like to work with their hands, can perform basic math, and are creative problem solvers to fill the expanding industrial manufacturing job vacancies in northwest Illinois. Starting pay can be as high as $15/hour with benefits, and it can quickly increase with experience.

Sound interesting? With the number of industrial manufacturing jobs rapidly increasing throughout the region, Highland Community College has devoted ten programs to this technology. Computer-aided design, industrial electronics and controls, machine processes, and welding/fabrication programs support the increasing technological demands of the industry and broadening scope of abilities needed by today’s manufacturing professionals. 

What’s really unique about HCC’s industrial manufacturing programs is that they are “stackable” to allow students to further develop their education. There are stackable tracks in the CNC machining, welding, and industrial maintenance areas. For example, a student could start out seeking only the CNC machinist certificate, take 37 credit hours of courses, and earn his/her certificate. By adding another 23 credit hours (for a total of 60 hours), this student could earn his/her industrial manufacturing degree and a wider range of skills that local and regional employers are seeking. These graduates have experience with electricity and electronics, pneumatics and hydraulics, sensors and motors, and tool usage. Graduates are skilled in welding, machining, and other manufacturing processes, as well as troubleshooting as it relates to industrial equipment. This translates to being highly employable.

Aaron Hartman, a student from Lanark, knows all about this employability. He came to Highland seeking a basic welding certificate; however, after taking the Manufacturing Processes course with Instructor Aaron Sargent, he saw a different future. He completed the welding program, and thanks to the stackability of Highland’s degrees, he’ll graduate with his Associate of Applied Science in May. And what’s more, he’ll graduate with a job! As part of the curriculum, Hartman completed a full-time, paid summer internship as his workplace experience component with Carroll Industrial Molds as a CNC Operator/Set-up Person. When he’s finished with his degree, he’ll transition into a permanent, full-time job with benefits.

Aaron Sargent, Industrial Manufacturing Instructor, noted there are HCC grads working throughout Highland’s four-county district and beyond including Milledgeville, Monroe, Savanna, Davis, Freeport, and Rockford. Industrial manufacturing students are ready to hit the floor running when they start their internship or full-time job. “We keep our technology, machines, and the software up-to-date. There are students learning on the 2018 version of Inventor 3D CAD, for example, and our CNC machines are less than two years old.”

This commitment to technology and student advancement is noticed by area employers. Sargent said, “I was told by Carroll Molds they were very impressed with the knowledge Aaron had for never having worked in a machine shop before and utilizing skills learned at Highland.” 

Scott Anderson, Dean of Business and Technology, explained, “If a student graduates with good standing from Highland, he or she will have no problem finding a good-paying job. Many graduates have jobs upon graduation.” Anderson believes there are well over 200 currently available industrial manufacturing jobs in the region. “Current workers in this field are aging, getting ready to retire. Businesses are competing to fill these jobs with knowledgeable applicants who have both educational and workplace experience. Our students get that in our Highland programs. I hear over and over again from businesses who have hired our grads that they are well-rounded and talented. These programs can take you wherever you want to go.”

Echoing Anderson’s belief about industrial manufacturing job growth in this region, the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics forecasts much faster than average (17%) job growth from 2014 to 2024 for CNC Operators. The same is true for Mechatronics: 15% (faster than average) from 2017-2027.  Job opportunities for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers are also projected to grow.

For those interested in this expanding job field, the department faculty is available to give tours and talk one-on-one with potential students. Highland’s academic advisors are also ready to offer guidance with class load, admissions, and available scholarships. Give them a call! Get your application ready for a growing career in industrial manufacturing