Northern Illinois University and Rock Valley College are teaming up to help local employers fill a growing number of manufacturing jobs.
Guilford High School senior Cruz Pena plans to pursue a career in engineering. Pena likes the idea of getting an engineering degree from NIU and RVC, because of the schools’ connection to Rockford businesses.
“Woodward and UTC [Aerospace], you’re closer to them, being here,” he said. “And, cost [is cheaper], too. I don’t want to be in debt and go to…a far away school. I can get almost the same education here, and not pay as much.”
Matthew Gonser, Project Manager at NIU, said, “There’s a lot of industry here. There’s more industry here in Rockford than in DeKalb, so the job opportunities… there’s more here. Having that close proximity to the company has been an advantage for [students].”
Joshua Clark works at Woodward and is now working on an engineering degree at RVC. He says that, for him, the location of the program was key. He can continue to live and work in Rockford, while pursuing his career goal of one day designing better products.
“I want to just be able to look at something and say, ‘I think I have a better way of doing that,'” he said. “And, with all my training, being able to actually prove that I have an idea that could make something more efficient and better.”
Start times vary from student to student. The engineering programs allow them to be dual enrolled “so they can be finishing up their RVC classes and also take NIU classes at the same time,” Gonser explains.
Josh Marble is a senior at NIU. He says the collaboration between the schools is a great advantage for students, “for people that are from the area and local, and they want to pursue this degree path, and even just getting your Associate’s of Engineering Science here,” he said. “They offer the engineering science [degree], where you can get a lot fof your introduction to engineering courses and your physics courses. They’re definitely very advantageous, so it’s been a pretty good experience.”
There are a variety of scholarship opportunities available to students in the NIU Engineering at RVC program. Application criteria and deadlines are available online.