During a visit to Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) today, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that the college will retrain nearly 500 additional unemployed Missourians for jobs and careers through MoHealthWINs, a statewide effort to retrain unemployed workers for employment in growing health care fields.
Under Gov. Nixon's leadership, Missouri's 12 community colleges and Linn State Technical College collaborated with the Missouri Department of Economic Development and the state's Workforce Investment Boards to apply for these federal funds. In total, the $20 million grant will provide training for 4,600 unemployed workers in the short term, while also developing training programs that will benefit students for years to come. At OTC, the college will invest $1.6 million to train 495 unemployed workers. OTC also will serve as the statewide administrator of the grant.
"From the moment I became Governor, we have worked closely with Missouri's outstanding community colleges to train more Missourians for the jobs and careers of tomorrow and to get folks back to work," Gov. Nixon said. "Missouri's health care industry is growing quickly, and hospitals, clinics and other employers need technology specialists, hearing specialists and other workers with the right education and skills today. Missouri is home to a strong and dedicated workforce, but we need to ensure that unemployed Missourians have the right skills and education to find and succeed in new jobs and careers. I applaud OTC and all of our outstanding community colleges for their collaboration on this strategic investment in our state."
Individual colleges will use these funds to develop or expand training programs in the health services and health sciences industry, which is a targeted industry under the Missouri Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth. The application focused on this industry because it offers immediate and long-term employment opportunities and relatively high-wage jobs.
Using MoHealthWINs funds, OTC will launch three new programs to retrain Missourians for careers in health care:
- A new maintenance technician program will provide accelerated training to prepare workers for maintenance positions at hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings. The program will feature four, eight, or sixteen weeks of intensive technical training, ending in a specific certificate upon completion. If the student chooses, the earned credit can be counted towards an associate's degree. This program will also be integrated with online and hybrid learning opportunities, making it more flexible for students' schedules.
- An expanded hearing instrument specialist program will address the shortage of hearing instrument dispensers in Missouri. This associate's degree program will be offered in a hybrid on-line format with hands-on laboratory experience at times and locations to accommodate students throughout Missouri.
- And an information technology program will train workers to enter and advance in positions in the high-demand field of health informatics. It will be offered at an accelerated pace in an eight-week block. This enables students to attempt to achieve an industry certification after one semester.
These competitive funds were made available through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program. When the grant process was announced, Gov. Nixon brought Missouri's community colleges together to submit a joint, comprehensive application.
Throughout the application process, senior leaders within Gov. Nixon's administration worked closely with community college and Workforce Investment Board leaders to develop and craft the grant application. In April 2011, Gov. Nixon submitted a strong letter in support of the application, noting that this investment supplemented his "Big Goal" for higher education: Increasing the percentage of Missourians who hold a postsecondary credential from 37 percent to 60 percent by 2020. Gov. Nixon also discussed the importance of this application directly with federal leaders, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
"We appreciate the support that the governor, the Department of Economic Development and the Workforce Investment Board have given to the development of programs like those that will benefit from this grant," said Dr. Hal Higdon, chancellor of Ozarks Technical Community College. "As we have done with the Training for Tomorrow and Caring for Missourians initiatives, the Missouri community colleges have collaborated with state workforce leaders and can now bring more financial resources into the training of qualified healthcare workers."