Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 10.08.11 AM Andy Sokolovich, Chris Caves

This screenshot shows a video of Sue Watkins of TEMP Associates in Clinton, Christine Caves of The Talent Link and Andy Sokolovich of the Clinton Regional Development Corp. discussing responses to COVID-19 and the future of the workforce in Clinton. Videos may be viewed at

https://www.clintondevelopment.com/covid-19-information-resources

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CLINTON — With or without COVID-19, a critical economic development priority for the community is making sure that people can find work, according to the Clinton Regional Develop Corp.

To that end, CRDC has partnered with Eastern Iowa Community Colleges’ The Talent Link to interview human resource and education professionals to understand opportunities for the future in workforce development and education.

It’s also promoting EICC’s Manufacturing Awareness program, which will introduce residents to the jobs available in the manufacturing sector.

“The purpose of that is to make people aware of what vacancies are available in the manufacturing sector,” CRDC Executive Director Erin Cole said Monday. The program wasn’t created specifically because of job losses due to coronavirus shutdowns, Cole said. “I think we would have done this anyway.”

But the timing is good for people who have been forced out of their jobs due to business shutdowns mandated by governors of Iowa and Illinois.

“The manufacturing sector still has vacancies,” Cole said.

Manufacturing Awareness consists of 25 modules of about an hour each, CRDC Existing Industry Manager Andy Sokolovich said Wednesday. The modules provide an understanding of the manufacturing sector, explaining such things as Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations, forklift driving, machinery and career advancements.

The program is free, through sponsorship by CRDC and the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce, to the first 10 participants, Sokolovich said.

EICC’s Tim Cottle said the non-credit program will give people an understanding of the manufacturing sector and career opportunities available there.

“They probably drive by it,” Cottle said Thursday. “They probably know people who work in the manufacturing environment, but do they understand that they could work there and what it might be like to work there?

“With the advent of this pandemic, we were really looking at how we could repurpose what we have,” Cottle said. “Even before this, we have ... actually structured training programs.”

Manufacturers tell EICC that they can’t get people into the field. Manufacturing Awareness will help people see how they can move from stocking shelves, working retail or in service industries into manufacturing, Cottle said.

“We give them a way to see what possibilities are there in the field of manufacturing. ... It isn’t for everybody, but it sure is for a lot of people.”

“Right now we’re piloting it,” Cottle said. Anyone interested in the program should contact Cottle at tcottle@eicc.edu to set up a phone interview.

“It’s fairly simple right now,” Cottle said. Students will take 25 classes totaling 25 hours, beginning with assembly, supply chain and forklift safety, “to give them a small taste,” Cottle said.

If students want to continue, they will take an additional group of classes. “If they like those, we’ll add the last 12 for the full certificate. That way they have it in smaller increments, and they can work at their pace.”

The manufacturing industry is still hiring, Cottle said, and COVID-19 shutdowns have highlighted the importance of supply chains. “There is a definite need and understanding of the supply chain.”

The lack of interest in manufacturing is a problem the college has struggled with, Cottle said. “We had all kinds of different initiatives. There’s a wealth of information, but somehow people weren’t still connecting to the possibility, and as we looked at how we were going to engage a group of people that may have time to learn, this became a possibility.

“It was really in partnership with the CRDC, the Clinton Chamber and the college, and in talking with several of the HR managers in our manufacturers as well,” Cottle said.

“We will be rolling it out to the rest of the EICC district once we have our pilot program in place.

“We’re really excited because we think it will fill a gap… that has always been there,” said Cottle.

Another avenue to increasing interest in manufacturing is the college’s Talent Link video interviews with human resource professionals, which allow each industry to explain its responses to COVID-19 and promote career opportunities in the future, said Sokolovich.

Sokolovich and Chris Caves, Workforce Innovation Coordinator for EICC, have interviewed professionals from Nestle Purina Pet Care in Clinton and Elkay Manufacturing in Savanna, Illinois as well as Clinton High School Principal JR Kuch and River Bend School District Superintendent Darryl Hague.

“The audience is pretty broad,” said Sokolovich. The videos might interest human resources professionals seeking insight from their peers, displaced workers looking for jobs or residents curious about manufacturing and responses to COVID-19 mandates.

The videos are available at https://www.clintondevelopment.com/covid-19-information-resources/.