LLCC apprenticeship program builds tech skills

Chris Barry

By Cinda Ackerman Klickna

“Let’s build talent, not buy talent,” says Brenda Elliott, director of apprenticeship programming at Lincoln Land Community College. The program, only in existence for a year, was developed as a way for local businesses to fill needed information technology positions while offering LLCC students a path for a career or career enhancement. Elliott explains, “Instead of a business paying for advertising a position, taking time to collect and read resumes, then do interviews, we can work with a business to help identify needs and create an apprenticeship program for them. This helps both the business and the students.”

It is common to have apprenticeship programs connected to the building trades. However, this is a new approach in creating a bridge to information technology (IT) occupations, which could be in the areas of banking, graphics, cybersecurity, health care data, coding or more.

Elliott came on board in July 2020 and planned extensive meetings with business leaders to identify their IT needs. COVID has forced some workers to find new jobs, and IT work opens up many opportunities. Elliott emphasizes, “This is a new venture that can be developed to meet the needs of businesses and students.”

A business might have someone already employed who is interested in increasing their skills or advancing into a different position. Other companies might be looking for a new employee, so the apprenticeship program would offer a way to help both the worker and the business.

LLCC also offers many training programs for those interested in the health care field. Capital City Training Center on Mason Street has recently been renamed LLCC - Medical District, reflecting the focus on training in health care certifications.

Everything is customized to the needs of the business and the skills of the students. Students can attend classes either full or part-time as well as fulfill hours on the job. Some may earn credits toward a degree; others may focus on earning one or more certifications. The program combines employability skills along with communication skills. She says, “Students are learning more technology these days. Computer skills are no longer just for entertainment.” One unintended benefit of the pandemic and virtual schooling is that it has increased technology skills among youth, something the business community has wanted for many years.

Elliott has a background in both business and IT. She graduated from Milliken University in Decatur with a degree in business marketing and has worked in tech sales, computer training and management of training centers. She worked for her alma mater and then at Hanson Professional Services in customer relations before joining LLCC. Elliott says, “This new role gives me an opportunity to meld my corporate business work with academics.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 97% of businesses that have incorporated an apprentice program recommend other businesses do the same. Of students who complete an apprenticeship program, 91% end up staying at that place of business after the apprenticeship is complete.

Right now, the goal is to promote the opportunities for IT careers to students through coursework and on-the-job apprenticeships. Elliott says she hopes to grow the program and eventually offer apprenticeships in more areas.

Businesses are encouraged to contact LLCC at 217-786-2326 to find out how to get involved. There are many opportunities for businesses to participate, and it serves as a way to build talent in our area.

Cinda Ackerman Klickna is a freelance writer and author of Out of the Beaks of Birds: Our Crazy, Pesky…Verbs.

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