Written by Jade Elaine
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 00:00
With the school year beginning for most central Illinois areas this week, high school high-tech manufacturing students have State Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria) to thank for keeping their classes from becoming extinct.
Unes went before the Illinois House last spring with legislation aimed to keep the practice going of veteran manufacturing employees teaching students the specialized skills they need.
House Bill 1868 eventually moved to the Illinois Senate for debate and Gov. Pat Quinn signed it into law in June.
Retired former superintendent Paula Davis of Pekin Community High School said her district has had pretty significant course offerings in technical education, more so than many other area districts.
“We have been relying on the manufacturing industry to hire craftsmen to teach our students in welding, auto mechanics or graphic communications. It’s been a great situation because we were getting really experienced people in the field,” Davis said.
Davis said it used to be those workers could get provisional teaching certificates where the hours and years of experience they worked in their field equaled a teaching certificate.
Under legislation passed in 2012, new legislation was scheduled to go into effect this summer that would prevent veteran employees from teaching without first meeting 60 college coursework hours.
“Most of our people wouldn’t have qualified if that went into effect this year. We decided to bring it to Unes’ attention,” Davis said.
Davis said she likes to stay in touch with local employers such as Excel Foundry & Machine if they have workers retire and would like to teach students.
“My fear is we wouldn’t still be able to tap into that resource. It’s an important skill set to transfer onto our kids,” Davis said.
Steve Stewart, director of human resources at Excel Foundry, accompanied Unes to Springfield as his company and Pekin High School pushed for House Bill 1868 from the start.
The bill passed unanimously in the House 13-0.
Stewart said the bill was a huge win for manufacturing and local high schools because it’s an important step to beginning to close the manufacturing skills gap.
“We, as manufacturers, are partnering with our local high schools to assist these experienced teachers, which are critical for us in developing students to go on to be the skilled workers we’re looking for,” Stewart said.
“This practice is creating a pipeline of skilled employees ready to take on these jobs when they graduate high school,” Unes said in a statement.
Davis said the high school is forever indebted to Unes for his support and sponsoring the legislation.
“It seems minor, but when our students have access to a program like this it’s a pretty big deal,” Davis said.
“I thank the Governor for signing this bill into law. By keeping a pipeline of skilled employees coming out our schools into the workplace, we will better close this skills gap that exists in high-tech manufacturing,” Unes said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 10:26