overnor Mike Parson took a 45-minute tour of MCC-Business and Technology campus Friday, Aug. 23 to observe how the community college is meeting today’s demand for developing skilled workers for the 21st century workforce.
The community college campus, located off Universal Avenue in Kansas City, contains about a dozen different labs and workshops where students receive hands-on training to perform various special skills.
The welding, HVAC and utility lineman workshops were among the areas visited by the governor.
“I think it’s an exciting time to come here and see what’s going on at the community college level and see what they’re doing to prepare the workforce,” said Parson. “I think it goes right along with what we have been talking about from day-one in the governor’s office.”
In Missouri, community colleges educate 60 percent of students who seek higher education. Community colleges, said Parson, are instrumental in addressing workforce problems and ensuring that individuals have the necessary training to work in high-demand fields.
For some, the reality is they must go back to school and learn new skills in high-demand fields.
One way the governor is helping adults achieve higher education is through a new financial aid program, dubbed Fast Track. The program provides financial support to individuals over the age of 25, who have been out of school for at least two years and will work in the state for at least three years after graduating.
The program’s goal is to encourage adults to pursue a new skill set, while connecting skilled workers with businesses.
Burns and McDonnell, a Kansas City engineering design firm, is one company working with Metropolitan Community College to better prepare students for challenges facing skilled workers.
In 2017, MCC started a program in the Burns and McDonnell Design Innovation Lab, where top computer-aided drafting and design students are paired with instructors from the engineering firm.
“We bring in a few of our employees to talk about engineering challenges we have on a daily basis,” said Sean Reese, a Burns and McDonnell mentor and adjunct professor with MCC. The goal is to better prepare the workforce, so they have the skill set to solve these challenges, he added.
Burns and McDonnell also conducts mock interviews and help students build better resumes.
So far, the program seems to be working. Burns and McDonnell has hired 17 out of 23 students who have completed the college program, a 74 percent success rate of bringing students aboard Burns and McDonell. Two other students accepted jobs with other companies.
Ann Owen is a living testament to the Design Innovation Lab program and the quality education she received at the Business and Technology Campus.
“After working in health care for 30 years, I felt like I needed a change,” said Owen. “I had always been interested in engineering and architecture.” But it took a little encouragement from her daughter, before Owen enrolled in the 2-year program at the Business and Technology Campus.
For Owen, the leap into engineering was worth it. She earned her degree and immediately began working as an electrical drafter at Burns and McDonnell. Parson said Owen is exactly the type of person he hopes the Fast Track program will impact.
“What we are looking for are people 25 years and older who have been in the workforce and want to increase their skills,” said Parson.
Community colleges, said Parson, will play the largest role.
“I have always been a huge supporter of community colleges, because it’s the (institute of higher learning) that is really going to educate our workforce, said Parson. “I’m not taking anything away from universities, because there is still a role that they play. But I do think community college is the key for what we want to do to meet the workforce demand.”
Critically, “we want educators and counselors, kindergarten through 12th grades, to sound that alarm to students after they’ve graduated high school,” said Parson.
Doing so will ensure the workforce aligns more closely with the business community’s needs, he stated.
Chancellor Kimberly Beatty with MCC said MCC will support the governor’s vision.
“We are partnering upstream and downstream with K-12 districts, four-year universities and area businesses to create a pathway to workforce,” said Dr. Beatty. “We are here to fill the middle skills gap.”
Kansas City Construction Career Academy The tour also passed through the exhibit hall, where 30 students enrolled in the Kansas City Construction Career Academy honed their skills, building wooden structures. The young college program is in its second year.
The program allows students at North Kansas City High School to earn high school and college credits simultaneously. MCC has received interested from several other districts and is considering branching out in its third year.