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Kaskaskia College redefines workforce development through innovative apprenticeship programs

Joy Fitts

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, over 14,700 new apprenticeship programs have been established in the last five years. In recognition of National Apprenticeship Week, observed from Nov. 13 to 19, 2023, Kaskaskia College worked toward actively raising awareness about its expanding program.

Kaskaskia College was recognized in March 2020 by the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Apprenticeship as a sponsor of Registered Apprenticeship Programs and works in collaboration with local employers to create apprenticeship programs. Their first apprentice signed in 2022 and since has grown to include 11 current apprentices and nine different employers.   

Apprenticeships combine classroom instruction with paid, on-the-job training. Students receive valuable, real-world experiences while earning a degree or certificate in their chosen field. Upon successful completion of the apprenticeship training program, students transition seamlessly into full-time employment. 

Joy Fitts, the dean of Workforce Engagement and Industrial Careers at Kaskaskia College, underscored the extensive reach of the U.S. Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program, boasting a comprehensive list of over 1,300 occupations.

 “Our collaborative approach with employers allows us to design tailored programs for nearly any industry,” Fitts explained. “For instance, if the owner of a restaurant approaches us in need of a chef, we can work with them to create a Chef De Partie Apprenticeship program utilizing courses offered in KC’s Culinary Arts program. In partnership, we work closely with the employers to define job competencies that align with our technical instruction in preparation for submission to the DOL Office of Apprenticeship for program approval.”

 Fitts shared that the program is successful for employers and students. Employers appreciate the direct impact of having a skilled individual who advances quickly. Students benefit from having a dedicated mentor who guides them through the learning and development process and removes financial barriers to receiving a higher education.

 “Through our program, we are opening the doors for both traditional students right out of high school and non-conventional students,” said Fitts. “Some participants reported that without opportunities like the apprenticeship program, they didn’t think they would ever have the opportunity to attend college. Employers, who begin an apprenticeship program and hire apprentices, are not only providing students with a job, they are investing in the students’ training and education by paying for tuition and books. In return, some employers may require apprentices to sign an agreement to continue employment for a period of time after completing the program. The Apprenticeship program not only provides students with the opportunities for education and employment, it allows them to start their career with minimal student debt and a higher earning potential upon completion.” 

For further information on Kaskaskia College’s apprenticeship programs, email Fitts at jfitts@kaskaskia.edu

Kaskaskia College is a public community college in Centralia, Ill., within South Central Illinois District 501 serving all or part of nine counties including Bond, Clinton, Fayette, Marion, Washington, Jefferson, St. Clair, Madison and Montgomery. Committed to making education accessible, they host the Crisp Technology Center in Centralia, and also have education centers in Greenville, Nashville, Salem, Trenton and Vandalia, Ill. The school, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, offers a broad spectrum of degrees, programs and certification options, specializing in two-year associates degrees and trade school programs. Founded in 1940, Kaskaskia College was the first Class I Community College established within the state.

 

This story also appears in the December 2023 print edition of the Illinois Business Journal.

 

 

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