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2018 Workforce Development Outlook: Sara Coatney

Ozarks Technical Community College apprenticeship specialist

Posted online

At Ozarks Technical Community College, Sara Coatney advocates for hands-on learning through apprenticeships.

2018 Projection: As workforce development becomes more competitive, apprenticeships will become the solution for filling roles that demand advanced skills.

SBJ: What’s the real difference between an apprenticeship and an internship?
Coatney: The main thing is an apprentice is hired from day one. They’re paid a wage, so there’s no nonpaid apprenticeship, and the wage increases as their skills increase. There are certain components that have to be tied in to an apprenticeship – they have an outline that they have to follow. You may have to have this many hours in safety training, or this many hours in another specific area, and each competency is designed by the employer. They design the job processes and the related instruction they want them to have. Apprentices also have to have a mentor. Interns sometimes don’t.

SBJ: How would you describe the current workforce development climate?
Coatney: Competitive. We have an unemployment rate of 1.9 percent right now. When I heard 3.4, I thought that was pretty low, but 1.9 is just staggering. It’s definitely a job-seeker’s market. Anther keyword is automation. Because of these low numbers, employers are trying to find ways to automate as much as they can, but that creates another problem in that you need highly skilled people to run these machines.

A lot of employers are saying they just need more skilled workers, not because they’re losing them necessarily, but because they’re expanding and growing. And I’m seeing more openness to wage growth.

SBJ: What industries are having trouble filling roles?
Coatney: Mainly, I’ve been working with manufacturing. We have a lot of it here. With that comes more need. Another industry is health care. As these retiree numbers keep going up, we’re going to need more on the health care side with home aids and stuff like that.

SBJ: What was a recent game-changer?
Coatney: One of the biggest accomplishments I had this year was putting together the Apprenticeship Works Breakfast during National Apprenticeship Week. It was in partnership with the (Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.) We had a panelist of employers from several different industries that either had implemented apprenticeships or were in the process of implementing, and we invited other employers that wanted more information. People left, I think, excited about some possibilities that they hadn’t known about before.

SBJ: What could disrupt the industry?
Coatney: Pulling funding is a big one. You see the loss of that a lot, especially in city and state. It gives people their jobs, allows them to do the work they do in workforce development and if it’s not there, they can’t continue with these programs and initiatives that are helping.

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