It's that time of year, when we celebrate our graduates, but on Tuesday, three students got some special recognition for being the first to complete a first-of-its-kind program that's doing big things for the Rockford area.
"It's a big relief just to graduate from engineering school, but it's also really neat to be the first group through," Bradley Robison said.
Robison is one of the first students to receive his Bachelor of Science in engineering right here in Rockford.
"Here we have three individuals who are starting their careers today, but we're also setting the foundation for our future," Rock Valley College President Douglas Jensen said.
It all started back in August 2015, when Northern Illinois University and RVC teamed up to offer a new four-year engineering program.
"It means a lot to us as a business, because now we have a great program to feed our engineer pipeline," Woodward President of Air Turbine Systems Sagar Patal.
That's a big step for companies like Woodward, which are seeing a shortage of engineers coming into the workforce.
"Without engineers we don't have a business," Patel said. "Everything starts with it, so it's great to see we have home-grown engineers for our future."
Engineers, like Robison, who now plans to put his skills to work right here in his hometown.
"Rockford is home, it's where i came from, so I want to grow and see it prosper," Robison said. "If I can do my part to help it grow, then that's what I'm going to do."
And with the engineering program continuing to grow, Rock Valley College is already looking at how to replicate this model for other careers.
"We need to take a look at where are the other emerging high priority occupations for our community are, so today's a model and the future will continue to drive us in the right direction," Jensen said.
Rock Valley College says it's seen a 180 percent increase in students enrolled in NIU engineering classes at RVC since fall 2016.