By Steve Koehler
Ozarks Technical Community College was the first stop Thursday, October 22 for Gov. Jay Nixon’s listening tour to discuss ways to help higher education better connect with the state’s workforce demands.
“In these challenging times, it’s clear that the demand for higher education is increasing in Missouri,” Nixon said. “Our challenge will be to ensure that the types of trained workers businesses need are ready and available. This conversation, and others like it around the state, will ensure that our community colleges are prepared to accomplish that mission.”
Nixon, who is visiting all of the state’s community colleges, toured OTC’s diesel and automotive repair facilities and held a roundtable discussion with college administrators and business leaders about ways the state can connect higher education to its economic needs.
“When we look at funding and expansion of funding, we want to match it up with programs that are in demand,” Nixon told. “This is not complicated but it is extremely crucial. It’s a matter of adding momentum to what already works.”
OTC’s president, Dr. Hal Higdon, said the College’s focus is “getting people in, getting them trained and getting them to work.”
The College has been able to meet workforce needs by constantly staying in touch with the business community.
“Advisory groups tell us what’s coming and what’s needed in various areas. We can start and stop programs as the economy changes,” Higdon said.
Nixon praised OTC for having the ability to be agile in responding to economic conditions with short and streamlined programs in everything from construction readiness, truck driving to pharmacy technician.
“At four-year institutions, it would take years to go out and do that. OTC works at the speed of business,” Nixon said.
In the healthcare area, OTC has started a new registered nursing program and an evening EMT program as a result of the demand.
Kim Day, president and CEO of St. John’s Health Systems, said OTC gave St. John’s a great deal of help when the hospital’s nursing program reached capacity.
“We have been able to work with OTC to obtain training in various healthcare fields,” he said.
Steve Edwards, executive vice president and Chief Operating Officer of Cox Health Systems, told Nixon that the hospital receives 300 applications a day for 140 openings but none of the applicants is qualified for the positions.
He credited OTC with help in the training of potential applicants.
“Filling vacancies is very, very important. OTC’s programs have been a godsend,” he said.
Higdon said OTC is training students for careers of the future.
“Whether it’s in health care, automotive mechanics or computer technology, our workforce development and degree programs help students succeed in challenging and rewarding careers,” Higdon said.
“We look forward to continuing this dialogue with Gov. Nixon in the coming weeks to determine the best ways to make our programs more accessible for Missouri students, and more beneficial for Missouri businesses.”
Steve Koehler is coordinator of publications at Ozarks Technical Community College.
College Director of Communications
Coordinator of Publications
Phone: (417) 447-2666