Columbia’s Regional Economic Development Inc. focused people’s attention toward an organization that has an influential impact on workforce development in the region Tuesday at the REDI quarterly mixer.
In hosting the event at the Columbia campus of Moberly Area Community College, REDI offered visitors the chance to learn about the various programs MACC offers, along with the partnerships the school has formed with different organizations throughout the area to enhance educational and training opportunities.
“One of REDI’s priority programs is business retention and expansion,” REDI President Stacey Button said. “A large part of business retention and expansion is workforce development. MACC provides a variety of programs.”
Most of the event was dedicated to showcasing the opportunities that staff and representatives offer students in the community.
“We are trying to do two things,” MACC President Jeff Lashley said. “We are trying to create pathways for our students, and we are trying to do this through partnerships in Columbia.”
He described several of the partnerships the school has formed with different community organizations, from the school district to area industries. For example, there is an emergency dispatch program that is offered to assist Boone County officials in developing their workforce, as well as a veterinary technician curriculum offered in conjunction with the University of Missouri.
MACC provides opportunities for students in high school as well.
A dual-credit partnership offers high school students the chance to enroll in college-level courses prior to graduation, giving them an understanding of the rigor associated with postsecondary education and preparing them for the level of work that will be required.
“The advantage of dual credit is that you get the experience of college while you are still in high school,” said Michele McCall, MACC’s dean of student affairs and enrollment management. “They learn study skills that are a little different than their average, day to day, study skills. Those classes are a little bit faster than what they are used to, so they get those study skills a little bit early.”
The classes also provide college credit at a subsidized cost.
Officials pointed to the school’s mechatronics program as an example of how stakeholders can collaborate to address an unmet need.
“The program came about when local industry — primarily Kraft, 3M, Quaker here in town — they were going to Kansas City, St. Louis and Iowa to recruit technicians because there wasn’t anybody in this local area producing technicians,” program instructor Mike Klote said.
The companies approached REDI, which then requested a meeting with officials from MACC, to determine if developing a program was feasible. In the past few years, the college has been educating students in mechatronics, which involves a combination of industrial, electrical and mechanical engineering, along with some control systems and computer science.
Klote said the program has been successful. He shared anecdotes of students offered positions prior to graduation at hourly wages higher than they would earn working in service industries, ranging from $18 to $24 to start.
Given the number of partnerships that have already been formed, MACC leaders are continuing to review and analyze other potential collaborations.
“I hope that the folks who attend today really learn about the programs that MACC has in place here, but I also hope they learn about the partnerships that MACC has made, not only with the business community but also with the education institutions,” Button said.