Ozarks Technical Community College’s Dental Hygiene program is a winner of the inaugural Siemens-Aspen Community College STEM Award by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program (CEP) and the Siemens Foundation.
The Dental Hygiene program will receive $50,000 and is among just eight exceptional community college programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), recognized for providing outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, and information technology. Half of this award will be allocated for further program development, and half will be allocated as scholarships to students, known as Siemens Technical Scholars.
“We are deeply honored by this recognition from the Aspen Institute and Siemens Foundation, and I believe this recognition is due largely in part to the collaborative, student-focused culture that exists within our dental programs,” said Rebecca Caceres, OTC Dental Hygiene program director. “The STEM Award will only further our students’ success by allowing us to invest in curriculum development, program enhancement and student scholarships.”
Overall, jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are projected to grow at almost double the rate of non-STEM occupations. Community colleges like OTC are playing a huge role in working to meet this demand. More than half of all STEM jobs across the United States require no more than an associate degree and pay wages that average more than $50,000 annually.
“Community college STEM programs are a strong pathway to job security and financial success for many students — whether that means heading right into a great paying job or getting a more advanced degree,” said David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation. “This award recognizes the colleges that provide an excellent STEM education and develop talent from every community.”
The Siemens-Aspen Community College STEM Award committee identified exemplary community college STEM programs, like OTC that deliver exceptional training for jobs that require strong STEM technical skills, some college hands-on training, and a postsecondary credential below the four-year degree – known as middle-skill jobs – in areas ranging from advanced manufacturing and energy to information technology and healthcare.
As part of the award, OTC will help select students in partnership with the Aspen Institute to be recognized as a Siemens Technical Scholar and to receive a scholarship of between $3,500 and $10,000 to continue their education or pay existing student loan debt. The Siemens Technical Scholars program recognizes an exceptional group of diverse students from across the country who demonstrates the rewarding careers and opportunity that result from completing an excellent STEM program. These scholars will share their stories with other young adults to demonstrate the economic opportunity available in STEM middle-skill jobs.
OTC’s Dental Hygiene program uses a selective admission process with a focus on outstanding academics. The department receives an average of 100 applications annually and admits 20 students per cohort. In the Springfield market, starting salaries for dental hygienists average $69,050 per year.