August 17, 2022


Business Activity

DOWD: LIFT Innovation Center to provide hands on educational opportunities | Local

The Mattoon Arts Council has a new feature artist display area in the north entrance corridor at the Cross County Mall.

LIFT, which stands for Leaders Innovating for Tomorrow, is the new career innovation center located in the former Consolidated Communications headquarters in downtown Mattoon.

Community members, 135 in all, including students, parents, business leaders, teachers, administrators, college faculty, and civic leaders all contributed to the overall vision of LIFT.

Each of the six floors will host a variety of hands on educational opportunities for students from multiple school districts to learn job skills. The basement will house a communications laboratory with a broadcasting room and areas for developing podcasts and other resources. Courses available will include radio production, broadcasting technology, digital sound design, cinematography and video production.

The first floor will feature a fully operational day care, welcome center and museum. Students will work with professionals in childcare and host children from newborns up to 36 months old. They will have the opportunity to take extensive training in child development and care.

The second floor will be focused on information technology through a partnership with CISCO Systems. The students will be able to work with large computer systems including servers and other technologies that they will encounter and work on at their job sites. Courses include computer networking, web page design, media development, computer maintenance, artificial intelligence, and cyber security.

Johnson Controls Inc. partnered with the school on developing the third floor where students can learn HVAC and Green Energy Technology. The equipment and materials will be readily accessible to the students to learn actual hands on implementation and development of products and services.

The fourth floor will focus on the manufacturing and construction trades. The students will have the opportunity to begin work on electrical trades, construction trades, drafting, machining and integrating computer technology in design and manufacturing.

The fifth floor will be a leadership institute where students will learn leadership and the skills necessary to succeed in the business world. Courses offered will include human resources management, social media marketing, business communication, business ethics, and business management among other courses.

The sixth floor will focus on culinary arts and have a fully functioning restaurant that will be available for community members to visit. The students will be responsible for all aspects of running a restaurant from ordering to serving.

The Mattoon School District is very interested in creating partnerships with local businesses for potential internships as students complete the programs. With multiple school districts sending students to our community this is a golden opportunity for our local businesses, in every sector, to build their employee base with trained, willing, young and talented individuals.

The school district would love to offer additional information or answer any questions you might have. For information about the overall programming, serving as an advisor, or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Christy Hild at [email protected] For questions about internships, please reach out to Kris Maleske at [email protected]

This program is truly unique to Illinois and right here in our community. As community members it is imperative that we support this program.


Ed Dowd is the executive director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce.