Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy (BIB) Consortium

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Retraining Steelworkers for High-Wage Jobs

In April 2015, nearly 2,000 workers were permanently laid off from U.S. Steel as a direct result of steel imports from foreign companies. A TAACCCT grant catalyzed the formation of the BIB consortium—comprised of five colleges across the state of Illinois—to provide educational opportunities and hands-on training to prepare residents of Illinois and neighboring states, particularly displaced steelworkers, for in-demand, high-wage jobs in the bioeconomy. Bioeconomy refers to the transformation of natural resources, such as plants, into commercial and industrial products, including food, fuels, or chemicals (1). Bioeconomy jobs include those in areas such as bioenergy, water management, process maintenance, and restoration ecology. The average starting salary in the bioeconomy industry is $50,000 (2).

The BIB program offers paid internships at two research centers—the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center and the Environmental Research Training Center—giving students hands-on opportunities to work on a federal research project in an environment that replicates industrial conditions (3).

“At my age, coming from where I did from U.S. Steel, and having the carpet ripped out from under me, life could not have turned out any better.”

—Christopher Wense, process operator, National Corn Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Find and use FREE Open Educational Resources available on SkillsCommons.

Additional Project Information

BIB was awarded Focus St. Louis’ 20th annual “What’s Right with the Region! Award for emerging initiatives

Additional Videos

Illinois Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) Success Stories


  1. “What is the Bioeconomy?” Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy Consortium, n.d.,
  2. “The Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy Consortium”, Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy Consortium, online pamphlet, n.d.,
  3. “U.S. Steel Worker Re-training,” Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy Consortium, video,; “The NCERC at SIUE: Advancing Biofuels Research,” Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, n.d.,; “Job retraining helps former steelworker transition to renewable energy,” Metro East Chronicle, February 22, 2018,