DIXON – One of Sauk Valley Community College's challenges is creating a curriculum for a "changing student body," the president told a visiting congressman Monday.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, took a brief tour of the school with President George Mihel, Academic Vice President Alan Pfeifer and other Sauk officials.
Kinzinger represents the 16th Congressional District, which includes all of Lee County.
"A big challenge for us is trying to create a curriculum that works for our changing student body," Mihel said. "From my perspective, we have more changes in what students are expecting from education and what education can deliver than ever before."
Among the challenges: 60 percent of incoming students need developmental math assistance, Mihel said.
"It's really scary in a lot of ways," he said. "We're spending a lot of resources remediating students so they even get up to college-level work."
The college is also attempting to appeal to those who have been displaced from work, and is trying to make sure its courses meet the needs of the community, he said.
Steve McPherson, associate professor of technology and electronics, agreed with Mihel's assessment.
"Displaced workers need a year's worth of remedial training before they can even attack the college-level courses," McPherson said.
Students also need to learn programming in addition to the technical skills. Many industries ask the college "How much programming do they learn?" he said.
"It's an industrial maintenance course, but yes, they expect them to know some programming as they move out into the field."
Kinzinger said he was impressed by Sauk's "real focus on hands-on technical training."
"It serves a very big need for the community in terms of getting people re-trained for areas that there may be a need; you have people that come out of jobs or they may have lost their job," Kinzinger said.
He said he will work to put the government on a path to "create a favorable environment for manufacturing," with the goal of having such companies move to the area.
Pfeifer stressed the importance of community colleges such as Sauk building partnerships with businesses, and getting them to use their technology and equipment for training.