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NIU Engineering @ RVC

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Rockford, Illinois is a global center of excellence in advanced manufacturing, particularly in aerospace. This critical sector of the economy is threatened by a looming shortage of engineering talent. In collaboration with industry partners and the local community college, Northern Illinois University (NIU) created a community-based, industry-integrated workforce developent solution to address the demand for engineers. Rockford area students can now earn bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and applied manufacturing technology without traveling to NIU’s main campus in DeKalb. Third and fourth year NIU courses are taught by NIU professors on the Rock Valley [Community] College (RVC) campus. Students have paid internships with area companies and are mentored by local NIU and RVC alumni.

In recognition of the importance of this initiative, local industry partners launched the “Engineering our Future” fundraising campaign and raised $6 million in 9 months to support the program. The president of the lead donor company, Woodward, continues to host weekly Monday morning meetings with the higher education, industry and community leadership team to ensure the successful operation and growth of the program.

The goal of the program is to facilitate a seamless transition from high school to RVC to NIU to career, developing and retaining local talent. Since its launch in Fall 2016, more than 30 students are in the third and fourth year NIU courses at RVC and the pipeline of students in pre-engineering courses at RVC has tripled, ensuring a healthy pipeline of students for growth of the program.

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NIU Engineering @ RVC

  1. 1. NIU Engineering @ RVC: A Collaborative Workforce Development Solution in Rockford, Illinois Rena Cotsones, Ph.D. Associate Vice President Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development Northern Illinois University University Economic Development Association October , 2017
  2. 2. Real Original Rockford, Illinois
  3. 3. Challenges and Opportunities The Bad News • First in, last out of economic downturn • Educational attainment 7% below state average • Per capita income below state average • High unemployment • Challenged K-12 public school system • Closest 4-year public university (NIU) is 45 minutes away The Good News • Center of aerospace and advanced manufacturing excellence • MSA has five Tier One aerospace companies and 90 supporting suppliers • 1.5 times national average of engineers per capita • Expansion of global manufacturing company
  4. 4. The problem: Looming engineering talent shortage • 100 new engineers needed per year • 50% of existing engineering workforce will turn over in the next 3 to 5 years • Existing talent pool lacks diversity • Local companies have difficulty recruiting and retaining talent • Best and brightest Rockford area students leave town for college and start their careers elsewhere
  5. 5. Solution: Grow our Own Engineering Workforce • Collaborative solution developed by NIU, RVC, industry and community leaders • Community-based, industry-integrated engineering program • Mechanical engineering and engineering technology courses delivered by NIU at RVC
  6. 6. Shared Vision and Rapid Execution Project partners • Northern Illinois University • Rock Valley College • Woodward • UTC Aerospace Systems • Rockford Area Economic Development Council • Transform Rockford
  7. 7. Engineering our Future Campaign • Community campaign to raise $6 million to support building renovations, program faculty and scholarships • Raising an extra $1 million now for scholarships First NIU Engineering@RVC student Bradley Robison speaks at campaign kick-off event
  8. 8. NIU Engineering @ RVC Goals • Accelerate the development of the engineering talent pipeline • Assist local companies in recruitment and retention of talent • Enhance the innovation ecosystem • Diversify the regional engineering workforce • Enhance regional wealth and job creation • Develop a culture of education and career achievement in the Rockford area • Create a platform for additional education/career collaborations
  9. 9. NIU Engineering @ RVC Outcomes Rapid program growth Rapid, sustainable growth of the student pipeline Students have paid internships 15 students in initial 3rd year cohort, 44 students in 3rd/4th years in Fall 2017 Enrollment in 1st and 2nd year feeder courses at RVC have tripled since the program was launched 100% of students who want an internship have one
  10. 10. Not Just an Engineering Program Expression of community understanding and support of a high-value economic cluster and the need to develop the talent needed to sustain and enhance it
  11. 11. Not Just an Engineering Program Credible option for high-potential students who have previously left the community for school and failed to return, depriving the region of their talents
  12. 12. Not Just an Engineering Program Commitment to creating pathways to careers that can transform the lives of students and their families for generations

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