- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

MALTA, Ill. (AP) - If money were not a factor, Brad Bocker would consider attending a four-year university rather than pursuing a two-year program at Kishwaukee College in Malta.

But Bocker, a 19-year-old Oregon resident, only has $1,500 of the $4,000 he saved for college after paying Kishwaukee College tuition for two semesters. He is taking automotive classes so he can eventually become a technician at the Chrysler dealership where he currently works in Oregon.

“It’s very beneficial, especially in the situation I’m in,” he said.

Although Kishwaukee College has seen decreasing enrollment like other community colleges and universities nationwide, statistics show there has been a slight increase of students who are earning two-year occupational degrees that allow them to find a job upon completion.

Meanwhile, the number of students receiving transfer degrees to attend a four-year university after their Kishwaukee College education has been unsteady in recent years.

According to Kishwaukee College’s 2014 Factbook, 129 occupational degrees were awarded in 2009 compared with 185 degrees in 2013. Meanwhile, 326 transfer degrees were awarded in 2013, down from 418 in 2012.

Kishwaukee College officials attribute the popularity of occupational degree programs to the one-on-one interaction between students and instructors and encouragement of completing two-year programs.

Some of the students in Kishwaukee’s automotive technology classes take the same classes with the same students as they progress through the program, said Sara Pohl, dean of the career technologies division.

Kishwaukee College surveys have shown that students take occupational courses because they are looking to gain a skill in a specific area, they like the college’s proximity or they enjoy that they can fit in their classes with their work schedules, Pohl said.

Occupational programs also have advisory committees in which industry professionals advise the college on the curriculum and new trends in the industry, Pohl said.

“It really helps keep us current,” she said.

Students in Kishwaukee College’s basic engines automotive class were learning Monday how to install cam shaft bearings and a crankshaft for a Chevrolet engine. Automotive instructor Shawn Long said that in his 10 years of teaching, he has seen diversity in his students, from those who are as young as 17 years old to 60-year-olds who are interested in opening their own automotive shop.

“It all depends on what students want to learn,” Long said. “It’s amazing the difference we get year to year.”

Dave Bond, 30, who lives in DeKalb, said he didn’t think he would end up taking automotive classes when he was a freelance photographer shooting weddings and portraits. Bond said he worked in photography immediately after graduating from high school, but when the economy went south about four or five years ago, so did his business.

Now, Bond is in his third year at Kishwaukee College, trying to get his associate degree and then transfer to Southern Illinois University’s automotive technician program. He is pursuing a four-year degree in hopes of working in a managerial position in the automotive industry that would pay him a $70,000 salary.

Bond said he borrowed money to pay for his education but figures it’ll be a good investment once he graduates.

“I don’t think anyone is in the ideal situation,” Bond said. “A lot of people I know are making do with what they have.”

Since 2013, Kishwaukee College has offered a 16-hour credit course to allow students to become certified production technicians, which includes welders.

Bernie Pupino, manufacturing coordinator at the career technologies division, said the program also has students complete a 255-hour paid internship with a local manufacturer.

There are currently 121 students in the program, Pupino said.

“When I was a manufacture recruiter, I would have jumped at a person like that,” he said. “I would hire people like this without a blink of an eye.”

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Source: The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle, https://bit.ly/1xBm8BL

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Information from: The Daily Chronicle, https://www.daily-chronicle.com


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