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Phase one begins in build-out of Advanced Technology Center

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Mar 10, 2021

Design is underway for College of Lake County (CLC) to transform a former Lowe’s building in Gurnee into the county’s first Advanced Technology Center (ATC). The 142,000 sq. foot space allows the college to expand three of its current manufacturing-focused programs, including automation, robotics and mechatronics, computer numerical control (CNC) and welding, while adding the high-demand program of industrial maintenance.  

“It’s pretty amazing to see the potential this project will bring to the county by adding training capacity in high demand fields and creating new talent for the workforce,” said CLC Vice President of Community and Workforce Partnerships Ali O’Brien. “The project team has spent countless hours dreaming, researching and collaborating with each other, employer partners and the design team.” 

CLC ATC Atrium 1 RevisedWhile roughly every 1 in 7 jobs in Lake County, or more than 50,000 people, are in the manufacturing sector, that number could be higher if workforce development was able to keep pace with demand. Through the ATC, the college aims to help close the gap with a goal of providing 40 percent of all workforce needs in key industry sectors.

Photo: a rendering of the ATC's lobby / atrium upon entering the main doors

“Most CEOs in the country point to the shortage of skilled workers as the primary barrier to the growth of their companies and it’s no different in Lake County,” said CLC’s Dean of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences Dr. Richard Ammon. “The solution is to maximize our enrollment pipeline and increase the output of our graduates. Manufacturing is a vital economic engine in Illinois and our county is the second largest manufacturing county in the state based on GDP, producing nearly $36 billion per year in economic output.” 

CLC ATC Atrium 2 RevisedThe current timeline for phase one calls for the design process to run through July 2021 and construction to occur from August 2021 to April 2022. This phase will see the development of approximately 59,000 sq. feet of the center, expanding the college’s welding capacity by opening up daytime scheduling and increasing teaching booths from the current 32 to 42. The new industrial maintenance program will also launch in this phase and bring with it additional apprenticeship opportunities. CLC plans to open the doors to students immediately upon completion of construction to provide more career creation and advancement opportunities as quickly as possible. 

Photo: a rendering of the ATC's lobby / atrium from the second level

“Most of the jobs these graduates will go into come with life-sustaining wages well above minimum wage. Some of our graduates in mechatronics, with the program’s one-year certificate, make more than people coming out of school with bachelor’s degrees,” said Ammon. “The other thing to remember is our career pathway will train students to get into the workforce quickly, then allow them to come back to the college and continue to advance their knowledge, skills and ultimately value to companies.”  

The plans fit the college’s vision for the ATC to serve as a center of excellence in manufacturing workforce development while creating industry-responsive career pathways that align with local needs. The same vision includes the center serving as a catalyst to propel the region further into the forefront of modern, global technologies and to create a community culture that values and promotes advanced technologies and manufacturing. 

About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.