Highland college program cranks out potential manufacturing employees

Made in the Stateline

FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Highland Community College’s Industrial Manufacturing Technology Program cranks out potential employees as efficiently as machines churn out parts.

Instructor Aaron Sargent says he thinks it’s pretty obvious that there’s a demand in the region for this education.

“I’ve had very, very good luck filling my classes,” Sargent said. “I’ve had good luck with enrollment and I’m trying to keep that trend going, and we’re trying to help the area employers fill those spots.”

Sargent was part of an open house recently, showing off the classroom to interested students.

Manufacturers came too, to see a program which can provide a pipeline to a future workforce.

“There’s a big gap between the older generation and the younger generation, and the older generation’s retiring,” said Engineering Manager at Metform, Dan Sloat. “There’s a lot of opportunity within this industry, even just starting off at an operator level, working your way up.”

Highland has several options for training. There are a couple of different manufacturing-focused certificates available.

One takes about a year to finish. The other takes roughly a year-and-a-half.

There’s also the option for a 2-year Associate’s Degree.

“CNC machining is the main focus. We’ll learn how to do CNC setup, learn how to do CNC programs, understand how to troubleshoot any problems with CNC equipment,” Sargent said.

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and it’s part of the skillset a company like Savanna’s Metform needs.

“We’re definitely looking for someone that has the ability to read prints, understands the kinematics of a machine, understands what the machine is intended to do, how it’s removing material, what the tools are, how they engage in the material, how they’re actually going to shape the part that we would manufacture,” Sloat said.

Those parts, made at Metform and other companies in the region, serve a wide range of industries, from aerospace to food service, hydraulics, automotive, defense, and even medical.

“I’ve been in the industry for a long time. It’s a lot of fun it’s been a challenge – a fun challenge every single day,” Sargent said. “I’ve never spent a day unemployed in this business. The job opportunities are great and you basically get out of it what you put into it. And the more you put into it you’ll reap the rewards from it for sure.”

Financial aid, like grants, scholarships and loans, are available to compete Highland’s program.

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