Special to The Source
Yet another pathway to meaningful careers has opened up for high school students in the Jacksonville area.
Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation (JREDC) has worked with Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, Reynolds Consumer Products and Jacksonville School District #117 officials to develop an experiential learning program at Reynolds Consumer Products. Reynolds has two plants in Jacksonville and employs more than 800 full-time and over 80 temporary employees from the greater Jacksonville area.
During registration for classes for the 2023 school year, a cohort of Jacksonville High School (JHS) rising seniors will be able to sign up to work in the experiential learning program at Reynolds Consumer Products. While the partnership with Reynolds is new, the program is run through the district’s well-established Cooperative Vocational Education (CVE). CVE caters to seniors interested in on-the-job training related to their occupational choices through supervised work experience. The Reynolds-CVE full-academic year on-site course — where students will learn about the industry and manufacturing in general — will be one of a minimum of five classes on their schedules. As of now, two JHS seniors have begun employment at Reynolds related to the program.
In preparation for class registration decisions, current JHS juniors got an introduction to what careers at Reynolds Consumer Products would be like when the company opened its west plant doors earlier this month to give tours in recognition of
“Both the Chamber of Commerce and Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation are really excited to promote the manufacturing opportunities in Jacksonville and to be at Reynolds for tours with students from Jacksonville High School,” said Kristin Jamison, JREDC president. “We understand how important manufacturing is to our community and this region, and to be able to make these operations visible to young people is important as we try to build career pipelines.”
Human resources manager for Reynolds Consumer Products in Jacksonville, Amy Quigg, told WLDS Radio, “One of the things I found that were so vital to partner with JHS is because, just like anything, it’s a declining workforce, and a lot of the students don’t understand that there are opportunities right here within your community to have a very strong successful career. So, by working with JHS and allowing them to bring the students in again shows them the potential for leadership roles as well as mechanical roles.”
The upcoming Reynolds-CVE Initiative will be well coordinated and supervised to ensure students receive a quality experience that can lead to a fulfilling career or serve as the foundation for further education in the manufacturing field.
The school coordinator will meet regularly with students at school and Reynolds to have their progress observed and evaluated. For their part, Reynolds will provide an employee mentor for each student to help students and parents feel comfortable in the program. Students will receive high school credit, as well as pay from Reynolds, while completing the program. The expansion of the program to more employers and schools is a goal.
The quality and safety training the students will receive through the Reynolds class will prove valuable even if they explore other career fields. If students decide to pursue post-secondary education, Lincoln Land Community College offers a variety of training options, including industry certifications, credited certifications and associate of applied science degrees.
“The opportunity for students to learn what jobs and careers are available in our area is paramount to the success of our local economy and our community, said Lisa Musch, Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce president. “The partnership between School District #117 and Reynolds is a great place to begin an initiative to create our own talent pipeline for area businesses and keep our talent local. The Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to be a part of this initiative.”
This program is the latest in a long list of initiatives for workforce development by Jacksonville Region Economic Development Corporation, but it has been in development for many years. As with many things, COVID-19 slowed down its progress and implementation. JREDC partnered with Illinois College to research and develop innovative and effective ways to help bring in the necessary workforce for the companies already in the Jacksonville area. One of the corporations surveyed was Reynolds Consumer products.
“Developing workforce is imperative in today’s complex job market,” said Jamison. “The Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation is committed to working with area partners to develop new approaches to meet the needs of our employers. It is critical that our young people understand that Reynolds – our largest Jacksonville employer – provides more than just jobs. Reynolds provides career opportunities.”