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OTC, Job Center launch tuition-free manufacturing training

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Ozarks Technical Community College is partnering with the Missouri Job Center to offer tuition-free manufacturing training.

Cody Naeger, senior workforce development specialist of youth services for the city of Springfield, said the Aspire to Create initiative also pays students $12 per hour up to 40 hours per week while they earn safety, career readiness, forklift and production technician certifications at OTC.

“If we have the people who are interested and we also have the employers who have a need, we want to connect those people,” he said. “If we can keep doing this, then we’re going to do it.”

Naeger said Aspire to Create has so far lined up seven to nine students with a cap of 15 for the Jan. 7-March 22 classes. Eligible participants must be 18- to 24-year-olds who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program assistance. He said the program also is designed to serve at-risk young adults, such as those who are homeless, have been in the foster care system or dropped out of high school.

Aspire to Create is funded through SkillUP, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program administered by the Missouri Department of Social Services, as well as the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Naeger said the training is valued at roughly $6,000. If all 15 students work 40 hours per week over the course of the 10-week program, wages would come to $72,000.

“We’re braiding together and leveraging our resources across multiple different funding sources to provide a new way to deliver services to those at-risk youth populations,” Naeger said.

According to Missouri Economic Research and Information Center data in the Ozark region, which includes Springfield, average annual wages for all manufacturing jobs was $45,782 in 2016, the most recent year reported.

OTC used existing partnerships with manufacturers to help shape the program, Naeger said. He pointed to SRC Holdings Corp., which provided a list of qualities they’d like their future employees to have.

“We listened to exactly what they want,” he said, noting SRC officials said “we need them to identify hand tools and show up on time and have critical thinking.”

The Aspire to Create manufacturing initiative comes as OTC targets a 2022 opening for its $20 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Technology.

It also comes on the heels of a health care training initiative that provided tuition-free certified nursing assistant classes. Naeger said 10 people participated in the training that’s now wrapping up, and recruitment is nearly complete for the next participants.

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