News Articles

U-46 Explore 2023

In October, Northern Kane County Region 110 extended its support to District U-46 and the Alignment Collaborative for Education, aiming to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed for both academic and career success. During this event, 2,400 eighth-grade students from eight middle schools were introduced to a variety of career pathways. This educational gathering featured 66 exhibitors, represented by more than 300 community business partners.

District U-46 offers a wide array of career pathways, including arts and communication, finance, business, instructional technology, culinary arts, healthcare, human and professional services, manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades. Additionally, students have access to a veterinary science program offered in partnership with District 301.

Celebrating Manufacturing Month 

The Northern Kane County Region 110, in collaboration with school districts 300, 301, 303, and U-46, as well as the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce Industrial Committee and the Alignment Collaborative for Education, came together to celebrate the manufacturing companies in the Fox Valley region. Approximately 250 students had the opportunity to visit nine leading industrial enterprises, which included AJR Specialty Products, Harting Industrial, Hoffer Plastics, Lakeview Manufacturing, Matrix Design, Otto Engineering, Pactiv Evergreen, Tek Pak, Inc., and Sauber Manufacturing.

After the tours, participating students shared their insights through a post-tour feedback survey, and the results were quite significant. Before the industry tours, 70% of the respondents indicated having limited knowledge about careers in manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades. However, after the tours, 83.3% of the respondents reported a substantial increase in their knowledge related to manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades. What’s more, 65.6% of the students stated that they would now consider pursuing a career in manufacturing, engineering, technology, or trades.

Notable responses from the students included:

  • 86.7% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they had a positive perception of a career in manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades.
  • 74.4% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that careers in manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades are safe.
  • 75.5% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that careers in manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades are clean.
  • 75.6% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that employees in manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades need to be highly skilled.
  • 84.5% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that careers in manufacturing, engineering, technology, and trades are well-paying.

The participating companies deserve our gratitude for warmly welcoming our regional students. They generously opened their doors to the next generation of workers, and the feedback results reveal that the students left with a positive perception of potential careers in the field of manufacturing.

Manufacturing Panel Video 

The Manufacturing Month Panel Discussion, organized by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce Industrial Committee in collaboration with Saint Charles School District 303 and the Northern Kane County Region 110, took place on October 26th at Compass Academy. The panel was moderated by Region 110 Work Based Learning Specialist, Todd Stirn and featured a distinguished group of manufacturing experts, including Ben Carter, Production Manager at AJR Filtration; Dawn Curran, Executive Director of GCAMP; Nancy O’Leary, Vice President at Custom Direct/Manufacturing Mavericks; Meaghan Ziemba, host of the Mavens of Manufacturing; and Brian Burke, a Student Apprentice at Otto Tool & Die. The discussion provided valuable insights into manufacturing career opportunities. You can watch the video by following this link. We encourage you to take the time to view the video and draw inspiration from these industry leaders.

Region 110 Celebrate Gains in Dual Credit & Work Based Learning Opportunities

The Illinois school report cards were unveiled in late October, and one particular focus of Region 110 has been the enhancement of opportunities for postsecondary credit and work-based learning experiences for students specializing in Career and Technical Education (CTE). A CTE concentrator refers to a student who has successfully completed a minimum of two classes within a specific CTE pathway. In 2020, only a mere two percent of CTE concentrators earned college credit as part of their program of study. However, the latest data for the graduating class of 2023 reveals a significant improvement, with nearly 38% of CTE concentrators now obtaining college credit. Moreover, the participation rate of CTE concentrators in work-based learning (comprising a minimum of 60 hours) has nearly doubled, surging from 4.44% in 2020 to 8.78% in 2023.

While we are gratified by these remarkable achievements, our commitment to expanding access to college credit for high school CTE students remains unwavering. We also intend to build upon the success of our work-based learning opportunities by forging continued partnerships with our local community and industry collaborators to provide more of these invaluable experiences for our regional CTE students. To discover more about hosting students for work-based learning opportunities, please do not hesitate to reach out to Terry Stroh, Regional Director for Northern Kane County Region 110, or Todd Stirn, our Work-Based Learning Specialist.

Northern Kane County Region 110 – Supports Area District Career Fairs

In October and November, Regional Director Terry Stroh and Work-Based Learning Specialist Todd Stirn lent their support to various school districts by actively participating in career planning events. These events included Explore in School District U46, The Academics, Athletics, and Activities Showcase at Central 301, the Dundee Middle School Career Fair, and the School District 300 Pathway and Career Fair. The primary objective of these gatherings was to offer students and their families valuable opportunities to familiarize themselves with the array of Pathway and Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs accessible to them. Additionally, the events facilitated connections with local industry professionals, allowing students to gain insight into diverse career options.

By engaging in these activities, students and their families have been better equipped to embark on their post-secondary, career, and life transition journeys. Armed with this knowledge, they can make well-informed decisions regarding their post-secondary educational paths, ensuring that their choices align with their unique needs and aspirations.

Educators Rising Mini Conference

On October 18, 2023, the Northern Kane County Regional Vocational System collaborated with the Alignment Collaborative for Education and Northern Illinois University to successfully host the Third Annual Educators Rising Mini Conference at NIU in Dekalb. Drawing inspiration from feedback gathered from previous conferences, the organizing team crafted an event mirroring authentic teacher professional development activities, utilizing a workshop-style format to actively engage participating students.

This impactful gathering provided more than one hundred and sixty aspiring educators from diverse districts across the region with the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in simulated professional development workshop sessions facilitated by NIU’s esteemed faculty and staff. The day commenced with an inspiring keynote address by Dr. Julie Lam from Oak Park and River Forest District 200, recounting her journey to becoming an educator through the lens of an immigrant to the United States. Dr. Lam’s presence was particularly significant, given the diverse backgrounds of students and families in attendance, many of whom are new to the country or first-generation students. These individuals aspire to pursue careers in education, aiming to inspire future generations, much like Dr. Lam has accomplished.

The students actively participated in workshop-style sessions throughout the day, delving into crucial topics such as student inclusion, the design of authentic learning experiences, and literacy strategies—all of which are pivotal elements for their prospective careers in education. Following a tour of the NIU campus and visits to education classrooms, the day concluded with a panel discussion featuring current NIU students. These students shared insights into their educational journeys and overall experiences at NIU, offering valuable advice on a range of topics, from campus involvement to navigating academic challenges and seeking financial aid.

The organizing team is eagerly anticipating the continued success of this group of students and has already initiated a review of survey results from this year. This reflective approach demonstrates the team’s commitment to enhancing future events, ensuring an even more engaging and enriching experience for participants at the next year’s Educators Rising Mini Conference.

Building Better Apprenticeships – Driving Retention & Fostering Workforce Excellence 

Northern Kane County Region 110 recently took part in the German American Apprenticeship Conference in Rosemont, Illinois, organized by the German American Chamber of Commerce (GACC). This conference was a platform for discussions on the evolving landscape of internships and apprenticeships, viewing them as comprehensive solutions to workforce needs. Participants delved into strategies for recruiting apprentice employees to address skill shortages, and the event culminated in honoring apprentices who completed the Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (ICATT).

The ICATT Apprenticeship Program, initially developed by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest and its member companies, was highlighted. GACC Midwest is dedicated to supporting German and American businesses in their transatlantic endeavors. As part of this commitment, GACC Midwest assists companies in implementing the ICATT program, aimed at nurturing a dedicated, highly skilled, and technically proficient workforce in the United States.

Various apprenticeship programs offered include Business, Advanced Manufacturing Technician, CNC Machining Professional, Mechatronics Technician, Industrial Electronics Technician, Polymer Process Technician, CAD/Cam Technical Designer and Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Technician. For further insights into GACC’s initiatives and ICATT opportunities, feel free to connect with Terry Stroh, Regional Director for Northern Kane County Region 110, or Todd Stirn, our Work-Based Learning Specialist.

Workforce Strategies Forum: Starting or Strengthening Partnerships with Local School Districts

In collaboration with the Valley Industrial Association (VIA), the Greater Chicago Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (GCAMP) is dedicated to uniting stakeholders to address the pressing employment skills gap in the manufacturing sector. During the recent forum, Region 110 Director Terry Stroh and Valley Education for Employment Region 130 Director Cassie Blickem covered several essential topics:

  1. Initiating or enhancing company ties with the local school district and Area Career Center.
  2. Showcasing the mutual benefits experienced by manufacturers and districts through established partnerships.
  3. Highlighting Illinois State Board of Education priorities, such as career pathway development and authentic learning, and how manufacturers can collaborate with districts and Career Centers using these priorities.
  4. Identifying crucial contacts within local districts to kickstart the partnership journey.

We extend our gratitude to Kathy Gilmore and Dawn Curran from VIA and GCAMP for hosting this forum. Additionally, a special thanks to the numerous industry partners who participated, either in person or remotely, contributing to the dialogue.

Students are getting opportunities with Ryder Trucks

For the second consecutive year, the Northern Kane County Regional Vocational System and School District U-46 have closely collaborated with Ryder Trucks to establish a sustainable pathway for students transitioning from our High School Automotive Technology programs to the Ryder Accelerated Maintenance Program (RAMP). Following the successful hiring of a Streamwood High School Senior last year, Ryder representatives sought to continue their partnership with Automotive Technology Teacher Marc Mota to cultivate the next generation of diesel technicians.

This year, over twenty students from Mr. Mota’s classes seized the opportunity to interview with Ryder System, Inc. Out of this group, four students advanced to final interviews, and Streamwood Senior Joey Ortiz emerged as the top candidate. Joey attributed his achievement to Mr. Mota’s guidance and the influence of his family. With a grandfather who was a diesel technician, Joey’s family witnessed firsthand the exceptional career opportunities in this field. Beginning as a first-year apprentice at the end of November, Joey will work after school until his graduation in the spring. Ryder is also considering another student from the program later this school year.

The success stories, like that of Joey, owe their accomplishments to the mentorship provided by outstanding teachers like Mr. Mota and the strong partnerships forged with companies like Ryder Systems, Inc. These collaborations pave the way for students to excel and explore promising career pathways.

For the second consecutive year, the Northern Kane County Regional Vocational System and School District U-46 have been working closely with Ryder Trucks to develop and implement a sustainable pathway for students looking to transition from our High School Automotive Technology programs into the Ryder Accelerated Maintenance Program (RAMP) After a successful experience with the hiring of a Streamwood High School Senior last year, representatives from Ryder looked to once again to partner with Automotive Technology Teacher Marc Mota to help in building their next generation of diesel technicians.  This year, over twenty students from Mr. Mota’s classes had the opportunity to interview with Ryder System, Inc.  Four students were chosen for final interviews, with Streamwood Senior Joey Ortiz coming out on top.  Joey credited his success to the influence of Mr. Mota and the influence of his family.  Joey’s grandfather was a diesel technician, so his family saw first hand the outstanding career opportunities available in being a diesel technician.  Joey will start as a first year apprentice at the end of November working afternoon after school until graduation in the spring.  Ryder may also be looking to add yet another student from the program later this school year.  The success of students like Joey is due to the mentoring from excellent teachers like Mr. Mota and the great partnerships that we continue to build with great companies like Ryder Systems, Inc.

Northern Kane County Region 110 Vocational Interns Explore Careers in Maintenance, Manufacturing, Mechanical Engineering, and Welding  

The summer of 2023 was abuzz with activity as 83 regional students enthusiastically engaged in a variety of internship programs. The remarkable achievements of these students owe much to the tireless efforts of the Alignment Collaborative for Education (ACE). ACE’s core mission revolves around harmonizing community resources and fostering partnerships with organizations to bolster public school initiatives, elevate student achievement, cultivate responsible and productive citizens, and promote the socio-economic well-being of communities across our region. During this past summer, Alignment collaborated closely with ALTA, Elgin Sweeper, ITW Shakeproof, and the Village of Bartlett to offer numerous students a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in 60 hours of hands-on exploration within the realms of large equipment maintenance, manufacturing, mechanical engineering, and welding careers.

Reiker Cho, a high school intern from District 301, shared his perspective on his time at Elgin Sweeper, stating, “At Elgin Sweeper, it didn’t matter how much theoretical knowledge I had from the classroom; what truly mattered was my ability to apply diverse skills and adapt to new techniques to accomplish the tasks at hand. It was a rewarding challenge that helped me identify my strengths and areas where I could improve.” Reiker leveraged his 60 hours of experience alongside Elgin Sweeper’s seasoned welders, showcasing the knowledge he had gained from the Hampshire High School welding program, a regional initiative accessible to both District 300 and 301 students. Reiker’s success was so impressive that Elgin Sweeper employed him for the remainder of the summer.

In a groundbreaking partnership with the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) Foundation, ALTA presented two accomplished automotive students from U-46’s South Elgin High School with a chance to translate their skills into the large equipment maintenance sector. Jonathan (John) Cowley, one of the interns at Alta Equipment Company, reflected on his experience, saying, “You need to approach your work with careful consideration. Often, you have to hunt down the problem, and it’s not always right in front of you.” John collaborated with the ALTA maintenance team, engaging in the assembly and disassembly of heavy machinery and providing crucial repairs when needed. Both interns expressed their enthusiasm for continuing to work with the skilled mechanics at ALTA, driven by their passion for both the automotive and large equipment maintenance industries.

Northern Kane Region 110 expresses its heartfelt appreciation for the invaluable partnership we enjoy with the Alignment Collaborative for Education (ACE), and the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) to advance student outcomes and success. Our shared objective is to create additional internship opportunities for regional students during the summer of 2024.

Alignment harbors ambitious aspirations for the upcoming summer, aiming to offer an even greater number of opportunities to another cohort of students eager to expand their career horizons.

Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) Foundation and Northern Kane County Region 110 

The field of automotive technology represents a regional career pathway where students can earn industry-recognized Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification. Our regional students graduate from these programs well-prepared to enter the workforce. Remarkably, just last year, a student from Dundee Crown High School earned all 10 ASE certifications before completing high school.

While our automotive program is strong, we are committed to continually enhancing our students’ readiness for future careers. In this endeavor, we have found a valuable partner in the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) Foundation. Not only did AED assist in placing automotive students in work-based learning internships at ALTA Equipment Company during the past summer, but they also facilitated the donation and orientation of four Caterpillar diesel engines from Altorfer to U-46 automotive teachers.

In September, automotive teachers from U-46 schools in Bartlett, Elgin, South Elgin, and Streamwood spent a day with Altorfer’s trainers to gain insights into the large equipment maintenance industry. The Altorfer CAT team provided valuable instruction on troubleshooting and research processes commonly used in this industry.

Clint Peterson, an automotive teacher from Elgin High School and the event host, described this training as a “valuable opportunity for collaborative learning with peers and business partners.” Our region remains committed to working closely with the AED Foundation with the goal of adding additional diesel engines to our automotive regional pathway facilities within District 300. We are immensely grateful for our partnerships with the Alignment Collaborative for Education, Altorfer CAT, and the AED Foundation, as they continue to introduce teachers and students to the world of career exploration and employment opportunities within the large equipment maintenance industry.

Diggin’ Days Career Bowl at Dundee Crown High School

On Friday, September 8th, the AED Foundation, District 300, and Northern Kane County Region 110 joined forces to host the Diggin’ Days Career Bowl at Dundee Crown High School. Sean Fitzgerrel, the Director of Workforce Development & Industry Initiatives at the AED Foundation, collaborated closely with West Side Tractor and Atlas Bobcat for this event.

This gathering showcased various career opportunities within the heavy equipment industry. West Side Tractor, a prominent dealer of John Deere construction equipment, offers a comprehensive range of services, including machinery sales, rentals, parts, and support. They operate at 11 full-service locations throughout Northern Illinois, Southern Michigan, and Indiana.

Meanwhile, Atlas Bobcat, with almost 60 years of experience, stands as a trusted and full-service construction equipment dealer serving the Greater Chicago area. It has earned a reputation as one of the largest and most respected Bobcat Equipment Dealers in the United States.

These local enterprises play a pivotal role in providing our students with a meaningful career path in the heavy equipment sector. Our automotive technology program also serves as a regional career pathway, enabling students to attain industry-recognized Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification. Additionally, students can pursue further certifications in diesel systems through Kishwaukee Community College in DeKalb. Together, we are actively preparing the workforce of tomorrow, today.

Pharmacy Technician Program Piloted in the Region

This past January Northern Kane County Region 110 and the Alignment Collaborative for Education were approached by leaders from TalentFirst to discuss opportunities for students in the region to explore career opportunities in pharmacy.  TalentFirst had developed a program in which students could receive training and become licensed as a pharmacy technician.  As a region we had been discussing various internship opportunities for students interested in the healthcare industry.  Northern Kane and the Alignment Collaborative then looked to partner with our friends at Advocate Sherman Hospital to discuss what an opportunity like this might look like.

After months of planning, the program came together with Advocate Sherman offering to host ten students in their pharmacy department.  The program would consist of onsite training from our partners at TalentFirst and hands-on experience within the pharmacy.  Staff from Northern Kane and the Alignment Collaborative worked to recruit and organize students, making sure that students registered for their Pharmacy Technician license through the State of Illinois and to verify that all students met the various volunteer requirements for Advocate Sherman Hospital prior to starting the program.  TalentFirst provided on-site training for our interns during scheduled times during the three weeks and the pharmacy department hosted students two at a time, for multiple shifts over the same period of time.  Interns were given the opportunity to work side by side with pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in filling and checking prescriptions for patients throughout the hospital.  Interns were also given the opportunity to hear from major pharmacy programs, such as UIC and Purdue, about education and career opportunities.

At the conclusion of the internship, all ten students completed the requirements and are now considered licensed pharmacy technicians, with the knowledge and skills to be employed in the field as they make decisions on their next step in their career path.

We are already looking to 2024 and are eager to expand this internship opportunity to other hospitals and pharmacies within our region.  If you would like to host an intern or know an organization that would be interested please reach out to us.

Hampshire High School Industrial Technology Department Named Best in the State

In October of 2022, members of Hampshire High School’s Industrial Technology Department attended the annual Illinois Technology Education Conference hosted in Bloomington-Normal for the opportunity for professional development.  What the members of the team did not expect was to walk away being named the 2022 Technology and Engineering Education Program of the Year.

D300/D301 Student Wins National Championship

As part of the Regional Veterinary Science program students have the opportunity to participate in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program at Central High School.  This year’s National FFA Conference was held in Indianapolis, IN at the Lucas Oil Stadium consisting of over 9,000 chapters across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In front of nearly 15,000 students, District 300 student and Veterinary Science program participant, Samantha Alvarez was named National Champion in the FFA Agriscience Fair for Environmental Services and Natural Resources System.