JOLIET — Joliet Junior College unveiled a new degree program Thursday that will train students to enter local industrial and energy jobs, professions that face potential waves of retirements.
Starting next year, JJC will offer the operations engineering and technician program for students interested in pursuing careers in the petrochemical, nuclear or manufacturing industries. Program applications will be accepted between March 2 and 31.
The highly competitive program has 12 open spots.
The program was developed by JJC and local industry partners in response to a need for more operators and technicians in Illinois. State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said she heard about that need from her constituents.
“I take plant tours and the plant managers would say our workforce has been here for 30 years … and they are getting ready to retire. We are processing a potential huge retirement in this industry,” Rezin said.
Rezin said her district covers areas such as Channahon and Minooka, and has many energy, wind, solar and chemical corridors.
She spoke with JJC officials about creating a program to meet the need for more employees in industrial and energy companies. Rezin said many students would go out of state to train for those industries.
Russell Coon, Exelon Generation vice president, said his company would recruit people from Purdue University and the U.S. Navy. Exelon was one of the partners involved in developing the program and Coon said its goal is to create JJC graduates who could compete with other potential hires.
“The people who come from this area, put to work in our area, will help the economics of Grundy and Will County. That’s what we need,” Coon said.
The program offers operations engineering associate degree and operations technician associate degree sequences. Greg Pakieser, JJC Technical Department chairman, said the program will train students in less than two years to meet industry demands.
Pakieser said students will have internship opportunities, as well.
Besides enhancing math, science and engineering skills, the program focuses on soft skills, such as punctuality, he said.
“It has the same feeling as being at work … so we want to prepare [students] not just to have the skills and have the critical thinking and math ability, but we also want them having the workplace skills they really need to be successful,” he said.
JJC President Debra Daniels said the story behind the program's creation is one of passion and commitment.
“I call it ’50 Shades of Green,’” she said. “’Fifty Shades of Green’ because it’s about our economy and our areas and providing opportunities for the people who live here.”