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First group of students to study high-tech as CLC's Advanced Technology Center

Crystal Garcia is a freshman at the College of Lake County from Mundelein and comes from a family of machinists. Now she’s learning how to weld metal at the university’s new Advanced Technology Center, allowing her to get the same job as her father and her brother.

“It gives me pride,” Garcia said during Thursday’s welding class. “I look at it and realize I’ve built something.”

Garcia is one of 230 College of Lake County students studying industrial technology, welding and manufacturing at Gurnee’s $34 million Advanced Technology Center.

A class of local high school students was taught how to install a motor in an industrial technology lab while Garcia and her classmates learned to weld amid sparks flying from the booths that make up part of the lab.

Dave Wooten, an industrial technology teacher, walked from table to table and showed students how to choose the right tool to operate a motor. He asked which tool was correct. They knew the answer, so he showed them where it was in the big toolbox under the table.

Cody Morris and Jeffrey Charaka, seniors at Wawkonda High School, were two of the students. They love the opportunity to learn by doing, and the satisfaction of seeing success happen right before their eyes.

“It’s especially exciting to see what we’re making right in front of you,” says Chraca. “Hands-on learning works best when you can see what you are doing.”

“We are learning to use the tools of the trade,” Morris added.

The industrial technology student was part of a double credit program at the university. Not only do teens earn credits towards their high school diploma, but the grades they earn also count towards their college degree.

In a classroom made to look like a modern factory, Richard Ammon, the university’s interim vice-chancellor of education and chief academic officer, said students were going to need hands-on experience for the high-demand, high-paying jobs of the future. He said he would get more than just a good education.

“This is what they see when they go to work,” says Ammon, pointing to a large industrial technology classroom with high ceilings and bright lights. “They will be highly trained and highly skilled.”

Along with learning how to weld using the tool itself, students in the Welding and Manufacturing program will work with welding robots. Ali O’Brien, the school’s vice president for community and employee partnerships, said the school is learning how to program robots to perform welding tasks.

“We teach them how to program welds, how to troubleshoot welds, and how to fix robots if they don’t work right,” says O’Brien. “This is very high tech.”

Ammon says graduates can expect to earn between $37,000 and $63,000 a year, depending on their welding, manufacturing, or industrial engineering skills and level of education.

Students earn an associate’s degree in two years, making them more marketable and more valuable to employers for jobs with manufacturers in Lake County because they can qualify in the industrial world, Ammon said. says.

“We want them to learn locally, stay local, and earn locally,” says Ammon. “It’s exponential. They pass on what they know to their children, and their children’s children. It helps Lake County manufacturers develop an industrial workforce here.” increase.”

Kevin Considine, president and CEO of Lake County Partners, said the Advanced Technology Center will make an important contribution to the region’s large and diverse manufacturing community.

“When this is fully built, it will be the most significant investment for Lake County for a really long time,” Considine said. “This is a really big deal. It’s very important to the proliferation of manufacturing in Lake County.”

With 70,000 square feet currently being used for two programs, with common areas for student collaboration and community gatherings, Ammon said the formerly large box store would have more room for additional programs. said it has open space to expand to 180,000 square feet.

Ammon said the university is looking at various options for the unused space, but nothing definite is planned. efforts are in progress. The goal is to train precision mechanics.