NSC leader profiled in Chicago Tribune.

September 26, 2013

Ray Prendergast, a member of National Skills Coalition’s Leadership Council and director of manufacturing technology programs at Richard J. Daley College, was profiled on Monday in the Chicago Tribune. The profile detailed how he went from a lab assistant after earning his Bachelor's degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University to running a successful manufacturing technology program that provides Chicago-area manufacturers the skilled employees they need in order to grow.

According to the Tribune story, Ray began his career in manufacturing in Boston as a machinist earning four times as much as he did when he worked as a lab assistant. He moved from there to Detroit, then Buffalo, to Chicago where—after a layoff—he began his teaching career.
After several teaching positions, Ray joined Richard J. Dailey College in 2010 to reinvigorate the manufacturing technology program. With Ray’s passion and background in manufacturing, he has been able to connect with area manufacturers to stay current with their needs. 

In the Tribune article, Ray said the goal of the program is “to produce not just technicians who are good at machining and mechanical repair and electrical repair and assembling new production systems. We want to produce people who can lead." He’s done this by incorporating new classes, such as English composition and welding, into the curriculum to develop critical thinking skills, design and teamwork.

As more and more manufacturing jobs are being created following the most recent recession, these jobs are requiring skills beyond a high school diploma. Workers laid off from manufacturing jobs prior to the recession need the skills that manufacturing and technology programs provide to compete for these good-paying, family-supporting jobs for which manufacturers are hiring.

Manufacturers need workers with these skills. In a 2011 survey of manufacturers by the Manufacturing Institute, over half of all companies surveyed stated the lack of skilled workers affected their ability to maintain production schedules, and nearly 75 percent reported that the lack of skilled workers impacted their ability to expand operations.

In order to continue growth in the manufacturing sector, there must be federal investments in programs like the one at Richard J. Daley College. During a call with National Skills Coalition, Ray said:

“…15 of 15 students in our training program passed their National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) Material and Safety exam. This is the first time 100 percent of the students passed the exam on the first try. They can all move on to Computer Numeric Control (CNC) training. All 15 of these students are able to participate in this program because of federal investments in job training—one student has a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Individual Training Account (ITA) and the other 14 are funded under the Green Jobs Innovation Fund. Without this assistance, many of my students would not be able to afford the cost of the program, leaving them without the opportunity to get the credentials they need for a good-paying job in the manufacturing sector. Cuts [to federal workforce funding] will hurt our ability to provide the skilled workers today’s manufacturers are looking for.”

Read more about Ray Prendergast and the manufacturing and technology program at Richard J. Daley College in the Chicago Tribune.