The U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded Harper College a $1.6 million grant to expand access to education and training for good-paying jobs and equitably meet employers’ and workers’ skill development needs.
The funding will support the Prioritizing Equity in Emerging Technologies Pathways at Harper College (or EmergingTech@Harper) project, which will include the development of new career pathways in the areas of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence/cloud infrastructure.
Harper’s initiative aims to expand educational opportunities for high-tech fields through new pathways that lead to industry-recognized credentials, meet regional workforce demands, and prepare graduates for high-wage, high-demand jobs and/or transfer to a four-year institution.
“Technology is rapidly changing, and it is imperative that we prepare students for emerging industries like AI and cybersecurity,” said Dr. Avis Proctor, president of Harper College. “This grant supports our efforts for faculty and administrators to collaborate with industry leaders to create meaningful career credentials for students and meet our community’s workforce needs.”
The funding is part of the third round of federal Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants Program, which aims to provide career pathways for participants to train in health care, teaching, clean energy and other key industries.
Harper is among 15 community colleges across the country selected for the latest round of funding. Another Illinois community college, Parkland College in Champaign, was named a grant recipient in a previous funding round.
In a news release, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said, “Community colleges offer accessibility and affordability that make them great options for people in marginalized and underrepresented communities to learn the skills needed to succeed in the workforce. Combined with our September 2022 funding, today’s award will put $95 million to work to help community colleges in 24 states tailor their curriculum to respond to regional labor market needs, continue the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to investing in education programs that connect people to quality jobs, and create a more inclusive and equitable workforce.”
Community and employer partnerships are at the core of the EmergingTech@Harper project. Partners for this grant include Vistex, Craft Technologies and the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers. Palatine-based Partners for Our Communities will help address basic needs barriers and provide additional supportive services to students.
Harper is also forming a Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) advisory council to help guide program and curricula development. The college will design programs to enhance equity and improve persistence and completion rates among historically underrepresented groups in IT/emerging technologies programs, including women and people of color.
Cybersecurity, AI and cloud infrastructure professionals interested in joining the BILT advisory council can learn more at harpercollege.edu/innovation.