DANVILLE, Ill., (WCIA) — A new program at the Danville Correctional Center (DCC) is introducing some inmates to theory, book work and lots of hands-on learning.

It’s part of a new field called “mechatronics.” It combines the skills needed to work on machinery.

Inmates at the correctional center are in the new class. It’s the first of its kind in Illinois.

The program is also helping people find jobs. Many people with the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Danville Area Community College (DACC) said gaining hands-on experience now will open doors to careers later.

Stephen Nacco, DACC’s president, said he knows there’s a great need in manufacturing. He feels this new class will give inmates a boost to reach their potential.

“These students are going to have an aptitude that is in very high demand in our region,” Nacco said.

DACC hosts many of the vocational programs at the correctional center. Shane Moncrief, the instructor, is teaching the newest class on their list.

“It’s going to be maintenance and automation mechanics, or mechanical industry,” Moncrief said. “Basically, we’re going to teach the students how to work on automation lines, how to work on CNC machinery.”

He teaches 11 inmates on a daily basis. Thomas Stromblad is one of them. He said he signed up to make a difference.

“I thought it’d be neat to learn about some of the stuff we’re learning about such as the windmills,” Stromblad said. “Which is maybe a way I can give back to the community and get out there to make things a little greener for my family and people in my area.”

The experience they’re gaining now will help fill open positions later. DuWayne Owens, the IDOC Vocational Coordinator, said companies reach out looking to hire.

“We know employers are wanting the people we have once they get out,” Owens said.

It’s a need that he feels will never go away.

“This is what’s going on today in our society, the high-end, high-tech things,” Owens added.

Stromblad said without this class, he’d have no opportunity.

Moncrief said it’s changing lives.

“I just can’t wait to see these guys get through this class and to be able to get out into life; to be able to work and to be able to enjoy what they do,” he said.

At the end of the 150 sessions, students earn a certificate in Mechatronics from DACC. They’ll also earn a certificate from Scientific Management Techniques, Inc. (SMT), an international training institute in the Mechatronics field.

Nacco said DACC is also planning to add CDL and advanced technology classes in the future.