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OTC, Job Center work to boost manufacturing enrollment

Some program tuition covered by CARES Act funds

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A pair of programs rolling out this month at Ozarks Technical Community College aim to bolster interest in the manufacturing industry.

Both the certified logistics and production technician programs are intended to draw students seeking to establish a foothold in manufacturing, or those transitioning to a new career, OTC officials say. The 12-week courses, set to begin in late September, will have a mix of in-person and online coursework. If eligible, participants may get a financial boost from the Missouri Job Center, due to nearly $500,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding.

The noncredit courses are intended as an industry introduction and help participants earn credentials accepted by industries and employers across the country, said Sherry Coker, executive director at OTC’s Center for Workforce Development. For the certified logistics technician program, the certificate is in supply chain logistics, while those completing the certified production technician course earn an Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour credential.

“These programs are designed to be pathways for someone to gain experience at the ground level,” she said. “Then they can make decisions about where they would like to move up from there.”

Students who earn a CLT credential would be prepared for jobs in manufacturing plants, distribution and fulfillment centers, and warehouses. CPT course participants have opportunities in entry-level manufacturing jobs, such as general laborer, materials handler or production technician, Coker said. She said starting pay for a production technician in Missouri generally ranges $12-$14 per hour.

The CPT course has two cohorts set for Sept. 29 and 30, while the CLT program begins Sept. 24. Each class likely will be capped at 10 students to allow for proper social distancing, Coker said.

Classes will meet 3.5 hours weekly for three months, with participants also needing to commit up to 10-12 hours per week for online coursework outside of class.

“The significance of the certification is it’s tying together industry recognized credentials with community college certificates of completion,” Coker said. “An industry recognized credential validates that an individual possesses the skills that people in the manufacturing world have recognized are needed.”

Financial aid
Missouri Job Center spokesperson Katherine Trombetta said the agency received $458,000 in CARES Act funds to spend on training in various fields, including manufacturing, health care and transportation.

The Job Center is working to get potential students qualified for the federal funding to help pay for tuition, she said. People are asked to call or visit the Job Center to determine eligibility.

Cody Naeger, workforce development specialist with the Job Center, said it has spent over $120,000 of the funds thus far to help those searching for work retrain for a new career. The money must be dispersed by Oct. 31.

The CLT program costs $3,000, and the CPT course is $4,000, Coker said.

While traditional funding sources such as a federal Pell grant or Stafford loan are not available to students for noncredit courses, other financial aid is available through the college, she said.

Naeger said focus at the Job Center to spend the CARES Act funds quickly turned to find training that would lead to employment opportunities. He said the CPT and CLT classes at OTC were a great fit.

“We wanted to get a training that covered a lot of bases that would benefit multiple employers across our region,” he said. “CPT does exactly that.”

Receiving a CPT designation requires passage of exams in four areas: quality practices, safety, manufacturing processes and production, and maintenance awareness.

Naeger said the CLT program teaches skills beyond typical warehousing or material moving work.

“It’s a much broader certification that focuses on a wide array of skills that can be put in place across the entire career path spectrum,” he said, noting other instruction includes learning forklift skills, evaluating transportation methods and getting to know how orders get processed, packaged and shipped.

“You can pick and choose which options you might want to explore further and get more education on in the future,” he said. “It creates opportunity.”

Coker agreed, adding most manufacturing employers require prospective hires to have some industry experience. The CPT and CLT programs are designed to give that boost.

“You need to understand where a product comes from in manufacturing before they’ll typically put you in any kind of leadership position,” she said.

“This sets an individual up for that success.”

Job rebound
The manufacturing industry, like many, was delivered a blow by the coronavirus pandemic, Coker said. However, jobs are starting to bounce back.

According to the most recent jobs report from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased slightly to 7% in August from the July 2020 rate of 6.9%. The national unemployment rate was 8.4% in August.

A year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 3.2%.

Manufacturing employment dropped 1,000 jobs in August from the month prior to reach 269,000.

However, employment in the sector added 6,000 jobs in July. Overall, manufacturing is down 8,000 jobs since August 2019 – a 2.9% decrease.

Acknowledging that the CPT and CLT programs’ small enrollment sizes won’t make a big dent in the job market, Coker said the courses can be offered numerous times per year.

“The great thing about the Center for Workforce Development is we are not tied to a semester schedule,” she said. “If there is enough interest and because of the fact that these classes are hybrid, we can start them anytime.”

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