Partnerships are Key to Improving Manufacturing Training

Partnerships were a common theme at last weeks Manufacturing Visioning meeting held at Rock Valley College Stenstrom Center for Career Education. Convened by the RVC Trustees, it was attended by about 70 people from RVC, Winnebago County board, Rockford City Council and Industry leaders. The Goal: To talk about making Stenstrom Center a more vibrant training center for manufacturing. At present, about 30% of the 8,000 RVC students are enrolled in some type of vocational or technical programs. Considering the manufacturing and health care industries that dominate Rockford’s economy, this number should be closer to 40%.

The first hour was a free flowing exchange of ideas that ranged from the type of training that manufacturers needed (manual machining, welding, fabrication, CNC, assembly, etc.), to how to inspire youth, the unemployed and underemployed to take advantage of RVC training capabilities. A show of support was clear from the panel of RVC Trustees and County Board Chairman Christianson.

Next, a presentation by Greg Wear, RVC Dean, was given that described RVC’s plans for the Stenstrom Center. The need to expand manufacturing programs will require moving the health careers classes and equipment into a new Health Services building on the main RVC campus. Dental Hygiene, Surgical Technology, Respiratory Care and Certified Nursing Assistant curriculums would move into a new facility that would be located north of the Woodward Technology Center on the main campus. This would the free up 33% of Stenstrom’s 130,000 square foot space that would allow expansion of new and additional manufacturing training capabilities. Partnering with local hospitals would be key here as well.

Manufacturing expansion would include a doubling of the welding area so 2 classes could be held at once, adding fabrication and adding virtual welders. The Integrated Systems Technology would be expanded and is partnered with Henry Ford Community College Multi-State Advanced Manufacturing Consortium. Skills-based training would be in electricity, motor control, programmable logic controllers, hydraulics, pneumatics, and mechanical drive systems.

Possible additions of CNC equipment with broader range of controls and machines that could include 4 and 5 axis are also considered.  Jim Warren from the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association volunteered his organization’s help and partnership in these additions. Another possible addition would be Transportation, Distribution and Logistics curriculum that would include fork lift operations and Parts, Warehousing and Inventory. This is a complementary program for many manufacturers as we move goods in and out of our businesses.

Building on the present partnerships will make these plans achievable. Citing the Aviation Maintenance Program partnership between the Airport, RVC and Winnebago County Board; Freedom Field partnership with Winnebago County, RVC, and NIU that supports capstone projects, internships and mentoring of BSEE students; Woodward, and RVC through the GEM/Launch program; and Intern Programs with Ingersoll and Eclipse are the basis for further growth in these partnerships.

It is clear that RVC is committed to growing their manufacturing and training offerings. Availability of capital and low interest rates make the environment for investing in facilities and equipment most attractive at this point in time.

Along with Techworks and the recently awarded Right Skills Now Certification, RVC is becoming a strong force in regional workforce development. What is needed now is more of these type sessions and involvement of all the partners to take action and “get ‘er done”



  1. John Ekberg

    As usual, good job on your advocacy for tech. education

  2. Bob,

    Thanks for your continued leadership in the community and for your support of RVC!