Statewide, there are nearly 6,500 manufacturing facilities that need highly skilled workers. On April 21, nearly two dozen local business leaders saw firsthand how the East Central College Business and Industry Center is helping close that skills gap.
ECC President Dr. Jon Bauer led the tour through the precision machining, industrial engineering, industrial maintenance and HVAC programs, along with the state-of-the-art welding lab.
“I was very impressed with the Business and Industry Center,” said Mark Borzillo, Silgan Plastic Food Containers. “I think East Central College is positioned very well for the future.”
Borzillo hopes the BIC can help change the mindset for students in the region when it comes to a career in manufacturing.
“Getting a higher education doesn’t necessarily mean getting a four-year degree,” he said. “I see strong needs within manufacturing for skilled people. The jobs are there, and the pay is good!”
It’s an issue that certainly resonates with East Central College.
“We know growth in jobs over the next several years, regionally, statewide and nationally, will take place primarily in technical careers,” Dr. Bauer said. “The Business and Industry Center is helping train the next generation of workers businesses need.”
In fact, Franklin County has more than four times the manufacturing establishments than any other county in the East Central College service region. They make up nearly 25 percent of all jobs in the area.
Jobs like those at the INTEK Corporation.
“This was my third or fourth visit to the facility,” said Jesse Stricker, INTEK Corporation. “Every time I stop by it is more impressive.”
The company manufactures energy-efficient ovens for industrial and commercial process heating, dryers and elements for screen printing as well as heaters for space heating. Stricker says the workforce skills gap is very real.
“Our biggest challenge is finding workers with marketable skills,” he said. “We look forward to seeing more students entering the programs at East Central College and coming out with those skills.”
Stricker also believes ECC’s night and weekend classes would likely appeal to his current workforce.
Also during the tour, Dr. Bauer also touched on the new Workforce Development Network between community colleges in Missouri during the event.
“Businesses now have access to resources at every community college in the state,” Dr. Bauer said. “This aligns our workforce development system directly with our economic development efforts. Our goal is to improve customer service for businesses and help Missouri compete for job creation projects that too often go to other states.”
The funding for the Business and Industry Center is comprised of a $1.2 million Economic Development Administration grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, a $1 Million USDA Rural Economic Development loan, the ECC Foundation’s capital campaign and institutional funding.