St. Louis Community College (STLCC) is a model community college system that puts forth a great deal of results-oriented energy into increasing its workforce development, corporate training and regional economic development mission and strategy. STLCC has four campuses in Missouri that annually serve more than 80,000 students through credit courses, continuing education programs and workforce development programs.
Within this relatively large community college system is the award-winning Workforce Solutions Group (WSG), comprised of more than 80 employees who operate STLCC’s Corporate College, which features a 149,533 square foot Class A training, meeting and event facility that was purchased in 2010.
“Accelerated Job Training Programs” are part of the many WSG initiatives that have gained steam in recent years. There are currently 13 short-term, just-in-time Accelerated Job Training Programs for in-demand jobs located in St. Louis and the surrounding areas throughout Missouri. Programs range from Lineman Pre-apprentice Training and Aerospace Pre-employment Training to Home Energy Auditor Training, Business Technology Training and more.
First Program with Boeing for Assembly Mechanics
The first Accelerated Job Training Program was created in 2008 through collaborations between WSG and Boeing in St. Louis. Boeing needed an education partner who could help them find and train new job candidates who could replace assembly mechanics (particularly sheet metal assembly and riveters) who were near retiring. WSG’s instructional designers and the Florissant Valley campus Engineering and Technology department, with help from technical job-training experts from Boeing, created a 408-hour/10-week Aerospace Pre-employment Training Program. Hands-on training for the program is conducted at Florissant Valley’s Center for Engineering and Manufacturing (a 31,000-square-foot facility with tooling and equipment, laboratory space and classrooms). The Aerospace Pre-employment Training Program, which is funded by Boeing, is offered at no cost to those who qualify through a WorkKeys Assessment Test. WorkKeys is a job skills assessment system by ACT, makers of the popular college-readiness test.
Additional Accelerated Programs Developed After Boeing
“We learned so much from Boeing that we started to develop more and more of these types of programs,” said Roderick Nunn, WSG’s Vice Chancellor. The next accelerated program was another employer-specific-and-funded, no-cost- to-students, 200-hour/ 5-week Lineman Pre-apprentice Training Program for the Ameren Missouri energy utility, also in partnership with Florissant Valley's Emerson Center for Engineering and Manufacturing.
The lineman program was followed by the first tuition-based accelerated program in Business Office Application Training, a 10-week certificate program with two weeks of practical administrative internships offering students the practical skills necessary to compete in today’s business offices. Cost of this program is $4,595.
Additional accelerated programs followed, ranging from a no-cost/ 5-week Patient Care Technician Program for entry-level positions in acute care (hospital) settings; to a $670/90-hour Home Health Caregiver Program; and a $4,975/8-week Audio Visual Production Technician Training Program in which participants learn fundamental safety, terminology and technical knowledge for sound, light, and video activities performed at an entry level in the entertainment technical field.
One-Stop Career Centers and Stimulus Funding Provide Assistance
Many of the students who enter any of the accelerated programs are referred to these programs or obtain financial assistance to enroll through the Missouri One-Stop Career Center in St. Louis, which is staffed with an STLCC advisor. Student financial assistance has typically come in the form of Workforce Investment Act (WIA) vouchers that are allocated through the One-Stop Career Center, but funding for WIA has lessened in recent years.
WSG has also been the recipient of a variety of stimulus finds, including a 2009 $1.19 million Community-based Job Training (CBJT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration to create training pathways for workers in the aerospace industry; more than $2 million of funding in 2010 from the Missouri Department of Economic Development as part of its Governor’s Training for Tomorrow Program; and a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant as part of the MoHealthWINS consortia, which was awarded $20 million to be shared among 12 Missouri community colleges.
Innovation in Workforce Education
On the health care-related side of employee training, which is considered a fast- growing field, the current health care accelerated training programs are going to be built up into a stackable credential model, “so adult learners completing our programs have a navigable pathway to degree completion,” Nunn said. In addition, the TAACCCT funds are geared toward improving retention for low-skilled workers in jobs related to electronic health records conversion and therapeutic services, such as patient care technicians, certified nursing assistants and registered nurses.
“Under current models of education, low-skilled workers have a difficult time navigating the employment and educational opportunities necessary to advance in the health care field,” Nunn added. “St. Louis Community College will implement new programming that connects the workers traditionally disconnected education and working experiences into an intentional career pathway development process. So this is not a job training grant, but a call to innovation in workforce education.”
In the meantime, WSG’s Accelerated Job Training Programs have shown great promise. From July 2009 to June 2011 269 students, between 30 and 64 years of age, enrolled in one of the accelerated programs; 79% completed; 65% of the completers gained employment within six months of completion; and 80% of these completers have entered or plan to enter into more training in their program area, which is very promising particularly in terms of the creation of educational pathways for adult learners to move forward toward earning a degree.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com