Sandburg Q&A with Chris Banker, Dean of Career & Corporate Development

  Aaron Frey
  Thursday, March 15, 2018 11:11 AM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

Chris Banker came to Carl Sandburg College in December as the College’s new dean of career and corporate development after spending time as the associate dean for Lake Land College at the Illinois Department of Corrections Life Skills Re-Entry Center in Kewanee and, prior to that, the GAP re-skilling and career link director for Eastern Iowa Community Colleges.

We sat down with the Clinton, Iowa, native to ask him about his passion for helping people get vocational training, his hopes for some of the programs he oversees and how developing partnerships with area companies is beneficial for students in the College’s career programs. 

What was it about Sandburg and this position that interested you?

I enjoy working with people who maybe the traditional college path wasn’t for them. They’re finding a different option through vocational training and finding out they can make good money, you can get a good job, have a great career with retirement benefits and seeing them go to companies like that and have a successful career. 

What are some of the programs at Sandburg that you want to highlight now that you’re here?

The programs we really want to highlight here are the welding, CNC (computer numeric control) and rail programs. With CNC and welding, we’re really pushing on increasing enrollments to partner with some local companies, to get people good jobs once they finish the programs here. For welding, we would also love to partner with local agencies and programs to give graduates good jobs in the community and bring in some community partners to find out what kind of employees there looking for so we can make sure our training matches what they’re looking for in different jobs. Our rail/off-highway motive-power electrical technician program is perfect for our students because we have a prospective employer right here in Galesburg with BNSF Railway. It sets them up with training and certification that can set them apart from others applying for jobs at BNSF.

Do you have any other goals for the welding program at Sandburg?

My hopes for the welding program are to keep getting more and more students involved. Doing the Welding Club, doing projects for the community, finding companies that are looking to hire, meeting with those companies and getting them good jobs. The nice part about the building here is we have multiple welding booths and welding simulators, so anyone can walk in and learn how to weld, then go out and get a great job.

How does Sandburg help fix the misconception that blue-collar jobs aren’t quality, good-paying jobs?

We have to explain to everyone that if you work for a bigger company, in welding you’ll make good money and in CNC you’ll make good money. Even the small local shops pay very well and have great benefits. We try to get the students out to tour these facilities and see that it’s not the old-school dirty job. Most of these places have great technology, are nice and clean and have great working environments. Just showing them there’s a different option to make good money and get a career. 

Why are the trades such an important component to the industry? What do people not realize in terms of those things being a part of our lives every day?

I think what people don’t realize about vocational training is that it really is the backbone of the United States. There are so many people retiring out of those jobs, there’s going to be a shortage here in the future. There are great jobs, great benefits, great retirement and they’re out there. All you have to do is get the training and get to work.

 Who are some of the industry partners Sandburg has good relationships with that you hope to sustain and build upon?

For welding, our biggest partner is Midstate Manufacturing (in Galesburg). I know they hire quite a few of our students there. And for CNC, we partner with Pegasus here locally. They even offer internships during the summer for our students to complete their certificates or degree programs.

How important is that — not just for Sandburg but for those companies as well — to have that partnership?

I think those partnerships are key. They find out what to expect from us, what they need from us, what we can offer our students. We can let our students know, ‘Here’s what you need if you want to work at Pegasus. Here’s what you need to work at Midstate. Here’s what you need to work at XYZ company.’ Then they both know what the expectations are going in so there’s less likelihood of failing at that position or not getting a job.

And that starts with K-12 schools too, right?

In K-12, the old-school way of thinking was you have to go to a four-year college once you graduate. I think now some of the counselors, especially in this area, understand that there are other options if four-year college isn’t for you, whether it’s academic, financial, a time thing or an interest thing. You can get a good job. You can be a welder, you can be a CNC machinist. You can do those things and make the same amount of money you would with a four-year degree. 


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Aaron Frey