Moberly Area Community College plans to expand training for in-demand jobs

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COLUMBIA - Moberly Area Community College President Jeff Lashley spoke to students, politicians and businesses leaders Thursday about how the college's new partnership will stimulate economic growth.

MACC has agreed to participate in a new statewide initiative to grow a skilled workforce to support existing industries, as well as industries that are coming to Missouri. Lashley said his goal is to connect with local businesses, to work together to give students industry-training, starting at the community college level. 

"When you talk to employers and economic developers, the biggest challenge that many of them face is a trained workforce. And finding workforce training whenever they need it," Lashley said. 

In particular, Lashley and participating colleges are focused on developing "Missouri's forgotten middle," or middle-skill jobs, which make up the largest part of the labor market. These type of jobs require education beyond high school, but not a four-year degree. Key industries have struggled to find sufficiently trained workers to fill these jobs. 

The demand for specialized middle-skill jobs in Missouri is growing, according to National Skills Coalition data. Between 2014-2024, 48 percent of job openings will be middle-skill. In 2015, middle-skill jobs made up 53 percent of Missouri's workforce, but only 46 percent of the state's workers are trained to that level.

MACC has worked with industry leaders, like Regional Economic Development Inc., to develop a popular mechatronics program focused on a a combination of computer, mechanical and electronic engineering.

Mike Kloke, the MACC mechatronics instructor, said the program is unique in that it was created by the industry, for the industry. 

"They really set the curriculum, so we teach what they need so they’re a really good fit for the local industry around here," he said. 

The network between the community colleges will open up resources and programs to all students in the state who are seeking specific training, regardless of the community college they are enrolled in.

Bernie Andrews, the executive vice president of Regional Economic Development Inc., said now is a great time for central Missourians to develop middle-skill job training. 

"Aurora Organic Dairy will be building a new $90 million dairy processing facility here in Columbia that’s going to need about 100 employees in the first couple of years.

Missouri's 12 community colleges signed the Missouri Community College Workforce Development network into place on March 9.