(L-R): Congressman Rodney Davis, Lewis and Clark Community College President Dale Chapman, SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe and NCERC Director John Caupert.

Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) joined Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe and Lewis and Clark Community College President Dale Chapman to celebrate the institutions’ ongoing partnership, the Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy (BIB) consortium Tuesday, June 23, at the NCERC at SIUE.

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In October 2014, the Department of Labor awarded a nearly $10 million grant to SIUE as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative. The grant provides funding for the BIB consortium, which is comprised of five higher education institutions spanning the state of Illinois: SIUE, Lewis and Clark Community College (L&C) in Godfrey, Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) in Springfield, Carl Sandburg College (CSC) in Galesburg and Southeastern Illinois College (SIC) in Harrisburg.

“SIUE is proud to be the lead partner in building a regional coalition of higher education institutions to train a skilled workforce in biotechnology,” said Furst-Bowe. “Our consortium has teamed to establish transformative career pathways that prepare students for jobs in the fields of bioprocessing and water management.

“Students will benefit from specialized training at the NCERC at SIUE and at the Environmental Resources Training Center, with innovative online learning tools, unparalleled hands-on learning opportunities, and access to the Centers’ research and industry expertise. This grant further demonstrates SIUE’s vision of innovative and interdisciplinary programs that empower individuals to achieve their full potential.”

At Tuesday’s event, BIB schools, federal and state lawmakers, Illinois agency heads and employer partners came together for a project celebration, set to coincide with hands-on student training at the NCERC at SIUE, a nationally recognized research center dedicated to the development and commercialization of biofuels and other renewable compounds.

Davis, a supporter of the project from conception, said partnerships such as BIB were critical to ensuring our nation’s workforce needs are met.

“It is an honor to stand here at the kickoff for this project which joins so many excellent educational institutions from across the state as partners for the Illinois Bioeconomy Consortium,” Davis said. “This grant will help train workers for quality, in-demand jobs and advance the bioeconomy industry within Illinois. Projects like these are invaluable to our state, and its universities and community colleges. I look forward to supporting similar endeavors in the future.”

Throughout the grant-funded training, students from L&C’s Process Operations Technology (PTEC) program will utilize the pilot plant as a “micro-refinery” to gain hands-on training on critical unit operations used in the petroleum, ethanol and other PTEC industries. 

Chapman also announced the launch of the “Partnership for Education, Workforce Training and Research,” a new collaboration between the NCERC and L&C’s PTEC program, which builds upon the TAACCCT grant by outfitting a state-of-the art classroom space at the Center with Siemens process control training simulators. The Siemens simulators will expand upon this experience by giving students further experience with process control from an industry-leading technology provider.

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“The Lewis and Clark Community College PTEC program offers tremendous opportunity for area residents to develop the technical skills required to build a lifelong career in this high paying career field,” Chapman said. “The Department of Labor recognizes the importance of closing the gap for the skills required for these 21st Century industrial jobs and the role that community colleges can play in advancing skills training and connecting employers to a skilled workforce.

“The TAACCCT program and our new partnership with the NCERC at SIUE will further enhance our accredited PTEC program by giving our students the best simulation of process controls and plant operations any student could access before entering the workforce.”

NCERC Director John Caupert said he welcomed the opportunity for the research center's veteran engineers, operators and researchers to assist in training the next generation of workers.

“NCERC has a long history of workforce training, and we are thrilled to be putting our expertise to ensure workers’ skills meet the needs of bioeconomy employers,” said Caupert. “By merging the strengths of NCERC and the PTEC program, we will create unprecedented learning opportunities for students that couple hands-on learning experiences and innovative online learning tools delivered by world class educators and industry leaders.”

The BIB consortium is 100 percent funded through the TAACCCT grant.

About Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT)

This round of funding builds on the Obama Administration’s focus on job-driven training by requiring grantees to expand employer engagement throughout the grant process. These employer and industry partners have identified necessary skills and competencies and will assist in designing curricula, programs, assessments or credentials that will help quickly connect ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.

The grants will expand programs in growing industries, such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, and encourage geographic and industry sector collaboration. All course materials developed using these public funds will be available as Open Educational Resources so that others can access and build on successful training models. A White House fact sheet is available for further details.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville provides students with a high quality, affordable education that prepares them for successful careers and lives of purpose. Built on the foundation of a broad-based liberal education, and enhanced by hands-on research and real-world experiences, the academic preparation SIUE students receive equips them to thrive in the global marketplace and make our communities better places to live. Situated on 2,660 acres of beautiful woodland atop the bluffs overlooking the natural beauty of the Mississippi River’s rich bottomland and only a short drive from downtown St. Louis, the SIUE campus is home to a diverse student body of nearly 14,000.


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