People trapped in a minimum wage job or are trying to support families by working multiple low-paying jobs may find a means of escape from that cycle next week at Illinois Central College.

ICC will host a Ready to Work Expo from 5 to 7 p.m. July 11 and from 10 a.m. to noon July 12 at the Agriculture and Industrial Technology Building on the school’s East Peoria campus. The open house-style event will provide an opportunity for potential students to learn about educational opportunities to retool their job skills to match local careers in demand. Potential students and their families will have a chance to speak individually with faculty and staff from a wide range of career and technically based programs. The event is free and open to the public.

“We’re doing a push with our Earn and Learn programs at Illinois Central College,” said Andrew Kerr, associate vice president for workforce development at ICC. “These include apprenticeship programs plus our workforce readiness programs, apprenticeship ready grants, GED Bridge, the solar training program and highway construction. All of these are stipend programs. You’re paid to attend them. The apprenticeship programs are actually college degree programs where the participants are hired full-time into a company. They’re paid their tuition fees and for their time in the classroom. They spend half their time with us and half their time with the company.”

A primary purpose for the event is to generate interest in ICC’s Earn and Learn programs, according to Kerr.
“We have four programs in the workforce readiness, or what some people call pre-apprenticeship programs that pay participants $10 an hour to attend the classes and training, and we’re not full on those programs,” he said. “So we’re just trying to get the word out. Plus, we’re not full on our apprenticeship programs, either, where people are actually hired in full time by a company in these U.S. Department of Labor-registered apprenticeships.”

Programs that ICC will showcase during the Ready to Work Expo include welding, machining, Computer Numerical Control, electrical, graphic communication, agriculture, horticulture, automotive, Diesel Powered Equipment Technology, and mechanical engineering technology, said Kerr. Labs and classroom spaces in some areas will be open for tours. A representative from the Pekin-based Tazewell County office of the employment agency Career Link will be available to speak with people who may be qualified for their services. Enrollment Services, Admissions Office, and Advising staff also will be also on hand to answer questions about applying to ICC and specific program admittance requirements, as well as testing information and financial aid options.

“Illinois Central is committed to filling the workforce shortage here in the Peoria area,” Kerr said. “It’s an important economic piece for our area. It’s important for keeping our business in the area. If they can’t find workers, they’re going to pull stakes. We can’t have that. Plus, we have a huge population of people in the area who want to get into these careers and don’t have the current financial means to do so. That is where the Earn and Learn approach comes in.”

Kerr encouraged anyone who is working in a minimum wage job or anyone who is working multiple low-paying jobs to support a family to attend the Ready to Work Expo. While the event is open to recent high school graduates who are thinking about attending college in the fall, the main focus will be on showcasing programs that can help area workers make family-sustaining wages.

“We don’t want to train people up so they can get a minimum wage job somewhere,” said Kerr. “We’re trying to break that cycle and get people out of the minimum wage job or jobs they have and into something that’s a career.”

For more information on the Ready to Work Expo, visit icc.edu/work-expo or call ICC Workforce Development at 309-0690-6863.