Rock Valley College

Rock Valley College Awarded Second Workforce Equity Initiative Grant

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2020

Media Contact: David Costello, 815-921-4516

Rock Valley College was recently awarded a $1.2 million Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) to continue the work it has been doing to serve low-income, minority persons within the College’s district that are currently underserved and underemployed.

RVC was awarded a WEI grant of $1.5 million in September 2019. From the awarding of that grant through June 2020, RVC served 116 students, 76 of which were African-American. Fifty-seven students have completed WEI programs at RVC, which include Truck Driver Training, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Operation, Cold Forming, and Industrial Welding. So far, 35 of those students have found employment after completion of a WEI program at RVC. There are 34 students still enrolled and working toward completion.

Additionally, 42 students (including 24 African-American) have completed and passed the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) – Measurement, Material and Safety exam, while 31 students (including 16 African-American) have completed and passed the NIMS – CNC Operator exam.

The new $1.2 million WEI grant period will be from November 1, 2020 through October 31, 2021. RVC programs that will be included for this grant period are CNC, Truck Driver Training, Dental Assisting, Mobile Application Development, and Industrial Maintenance Technician.

The initiative provides participants with stipends to cover the cost of tuition, fees and materials for courses required to complete the identified short-term certificate. Students are also provided with wrap-around support services, such as life and career coaching and financial support for transportation and child care, addressing their individual needs to be successful in completing educational requirements and securing post-completion employment.

“The WEI grant is one of the many initiatives we facilitate that impacts the City of Rockford and this region,” said RVC President Dr. Howard Spearman. “We are honored to receive continued funding which can change the trajectory of members of our community. We are appreciative of our community partners and legislators like State Representative Maurice West and the Illinois Black Legislative Caucus for supporting this initiative.”

“Decreasing the skills gap has been my number one priority since taking office, which is why I am excited for the second round of the Workforce Equity Initiative grant, an Illinois Legislative Black Caucus initiative,” said State Representative Maurice West. “I particularly want to applaud Rock Valley College. I truly believe that the commitment from RVC has been the best in the state for this initiative. Thank you for being a strong partner in providing short-term training that leads to live-able wages for people, especially Black people, in our community. Investing in people's skills enhances our workforce, brings new jobs to our community, and transforms Rockford.”

Under the grant requirements, at least 60% of those to be served by RVC-WEI must be African American students. The grant also stipulates that at least 75% of participants should successfully complete their identified program of study within the accelerated time frame, at least 50% of participants should successfully complete life-skills training addressing the Illinois Essential Employability Skills, and at least 60% of participants should continue within the field in which they prepared at the end of their program by either being employed in a full-time job at least 30% above the regional living wage or by being registered for continued training/education.