PEORIA — Students in six area high schools will soon have easy, coordinated access to career information, along with the high school, dual credit and college courses required to reach career goals.

A seventh school district, Peoria Public Schools, already has implemented many of the career pathways in Illinois Central College’s pilot program to improve career readiness across the region.

The program should be online by March 1, former ICC administrator Margaret Swanson told board members Thursday.

Swanson, who served as ICC’s associate and interim provost until her retirement last year, returned to help set up the pilot project.

Initially, the program will focus on careers in three areas with a shortage of qualified workers: health sciences, manufacturing and information technology. It will eventually expand to include teacher education, a field experiencing severe shortages. PPS already is working on a career pathway for teaching.

Other school districts involved in the High School Pathways Project are Dunlap, East Peoria, Elmwood, Illini Bluffs, Pekin and East Peoria.

ICC's board meeting, traditionally held at the East Peoria campus, moved to the Peoria Campus this month. 

The board unanimously approved a modest increase in the tax levy and phasing out the curriculum for a human services generalist degree.

The total levy request is $36.1 million. The tax rate, based on an estimated increase of 1.5 percent in the tax district’s equalized assessed valuation, will increase from .490 cents in fiscal year 2016 to .492 cents per $100 EAV for fiscal year 2017. The owner of a $100,000 home should expect to see an increase of about $1 on the tax bill, according to Bruce Budde, ICC’s vice president of administration and finance.

Declining demand, worsened by the state’s two-year budget impasse, led to the decision to cut the human services generalist degree program.

As of fall 2017, only 15 students intended to complete the degree, which generally leads to jobs related to developmental disabilities, mental health or in services to youths or the elderly. In 2016, 13 classes were offered, but nine were canceled because of lack of enrollment.

Many of the agencies that once hired graduates rely on state funding. Though state lawmakers resolved the budget crisis earlier this year, the agencies have not recovered financially and, therefore, aren’t hiring.

Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or padams@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.