By Steve Koehler
Ozarks Technical Community College’s new office at the Missouri Career Center has helped people like Troy Pruett and Pat Carr make the transition from being suddenly unemployed to a student who’s learning new skills to find a new job.
The center reported seeing 8,700 clients in February. A number of those people have met with Bruce Clemens, OTC’s workforce liaison who staffs the office at the center, to discuss training and education options.
“We are working closely with the directors and staff here to try to identify the best short-term training and degree programs to put in place to offer viable employment,” Clemens said.
That’s the hope of Pruett and Carr, who had never faced being unemployed until recently.
Pruett was laid off Feb. 10 without notice from a job he held for more than two years. After taking a few days to absorb the shock of being out of work for the first time in 18 years, he came to the career center.
Through the state’s Dislocated Workers Program, Pruett was able to enroll in physical therapy assistant classes at OTC.
“OTC and Bruce have helped so much. OTC was the only one offering classes I was interested in. When I meet with Bruce, I’m getting the word straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s all in one spot where I can take care of everything. He tells me what’s required for school; what I need,” the 35-year-old Pruett said.
“I’m excited about going to school at OTC. I look at it as an opportunity.”
For Carr, who is 60, she looks at her layoff as a chance to redefine herself.
“You have to make yourself over, take a new look. It’s a complete change for me. I never thought I’d be in this position,” she said.
Carr was working in the accounting office of a local firm when she was let go in January after working there for a year. Now, after meeting with Clemens and obtaining help through the dislocated worker plan, Carr is enrolling in pharmacy technician classes offered through OTC Continuing Education Center.
“It’s been a blessing in disguise,” she said.
Clemens said clients like Pruett and Carr are more the rule than the exception when it comes to the types of people he sees everyday.
“They would be considered a non-traditional student for OTC. They are typically between the ages of 35 and 60 with a 10- to 20-year work history at one, or at most, a few employers. They badly need basic computer literacy skills, and are very apprehensive about returning to school. I have had everyone from laid-off construction workers to someone with an MBA who was let go from Wachovia when they were bought out recently by Wells Fargo,” Clemens said.
Clemens said the majority of people he has met with have enrolled in non-credit health care training since those jobs have the most viable employers in the area.
Others, according to Clemens, are going into credit-degree programs in Industrial Control and Automation and Health Information Technology. He said there is still great interest in the Transport Training Institute and in the Apprentice Lineman training.
Dana Patterson, director of OTC’s Continuing Education Center, said referrals from Clemens’ office have increased for the Pharmacy Technician, Phlebotomy Technician and Certified Nurse Assistant programs.
Patterson said the continuity that has developed between the center and OTC is to Clemens’ credit.
“(Clemens) has provided a smooth conduit for students from the career center to the registration in our workforce training programs. This translates to referrals being more expedient and students getting better service from all of us providers,” Patterson said.
Shirley Lawler, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, said she is pleased with the assistance OTC’s office has been able to offer those looking for training and education to make them viable job seekers.
“Bruce is the hub who finds out what people need. He comes to us and whomever needs to roll out a needed program goes ahead and works to roll it out, whether it’s credit, non-credit or technical education,” she said.
Yet to be resolved is how federal stimulus money will be used toward OTC’s efforts to assist the uunemployed seeking training and education.
“We’re not sure what we need to be rolling out. No one had an exact idea of what we need to do year. There are no specifics,” she said.
Clemens said about $3 million should be coming to the career center, money that will be divided among the various programs administered by the center.
“The bulk of this money will be allocated to training people for new employment. That’s where OTC comes in. We are working closely with the directors and staff here to try to identify the best short-term training and degree programs to put in place to offer viable employment,” he said.
Steve Koehler is coordinator of publications at Ozarks Technical Community College.
College Director of Communications
Coordinator of Publications
Phone: (417) 447-2666