A Valley school is trying to help bridge that gap though.
At the Lake Land Community College Campus in Marshall, Illinois, ten students are studying in a highly specialized class; one that will earn them a certificate, college credentials, and a set of skills that businesses around the world - and right here in the Wabash Valley - are looking for.
"They came to us back in September and said we're going to need to hire about 300 people and we don't know where we're going to find them. They need a specific set of skills that most people don't have," recalls Jim Hull, the vice president of academic services at Lake Land College.
So Lake Land College went to work, developing a fast-track program, giving students hands-on experience with actual industry equipment.
"That's the ticket that opens up that door to really some good paying jobs," said Hull.
The program is part of a partnership with North American Lighting in Paris, Illinois. Anyone who completes the course gets an automatic interview here.
"They're coming in better prepared for our internal training sessions. They've got a better understanding and they're picking things up a lot quicker than we have seen in the past," said Jim Jamroszek, the manager of training & development at North American Lighting.
That's thanks to the intensive workload. Every day, students team up on different machines, learning the ins and outs of robotics, automation, electrical, and applied math - making this classroom more like a true place of employment.
"Showing up everyday. This really is work, this is job. This is what we do. Even though they're students...we really aren't," explains instructor Brian Haskins, who's also the transition coordinator at Lake Land.
And since Lake Land is a community college, officials want it to live up to its role.
"There are lots of great opportunities right here at home...we just have to look for them and be willing to work for them," said Hull.
And for students like Chris Lawson, of Paris, Illinois -who's been looking for a job since last May - this class is a stepping stone toward a stable career.
"To be successful at my job is what I'm really hoping. To have the skills to be able to succeed," he said. "I don't even know if I can explain it... Just knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. There's a goal."
Lake Land College is now working with local high schools to bring the curriculum to juniors and seniors, and just this week, school leaders met with officials from Effingham, Illinois, to potentially expand there.
For more information on Lake Land's North American Lighting fast track program, click here.
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