WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Despite damages caused by extensive flooding April 29, training programs offered through the Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT) in West Plains are still a go for the 2017 fall semester, according to center officials.
“Although the flood waters definitely slowed our momentum, we at Missouri State University-West Plains, as well as our partners at the South Central Career Center (SCCC) and the City of West Plains, are committed to having our workforce development programs at the GOCAT up, running, and even sprinting by the time the fall semester arrives in August,” said Dr. Dennis Lancaster, dean of academic affairs at Missouri State-West Plains. “The partnership’s ongoing focus is on preparing our residents for the workplace, working with our industry partners and meeting their customized training needs, and we’ll be doing just that come August.”
Floodwaters rose to 26 inches throughout the recently renovated GOCAT facility on Howell Avenue, resulting in extensive equipment and material damage, according to Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems Jim Hart, but salvage operations are underway. “Salvageable equipment is being restored to operational status to allow classes to begin on schedule for the fall semester,” he explained.
Other equipment that cannot be salvaged will be replaced, some immediately and some over time, given available funding resources, Lancaster said. “The primary aim is still to provide the highest, most advanced level of workforce training in the technologies and processes needed by our industry partners in the region,” he explained. “Although this has been a setback for us, we are pressing on because the need for these programs and courses were not swept away by the flood.”
Programs Offered Through GOCAT
Classes offered through GOCAT include those leading toward the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Technology. The AAS in Technology has four optional study areas – Advanced Manufacturing, Alternative Energy, General Technology and Technology Management. Certificates in these study areas also are available through GOCAT, as is customized training for specific industry needs.
Some of the courses scheduled this fall at GOCAT include Manufacturing Materials and Processes (TEC 111), Manufacturing Technology (TEC 165), Survey of Electronics (TEC 100) and Applied Electricity and Electronics (TEC 200), as well as hands-on laboratory work, Hart said.
“Although many of the technology degree courses are offered online, GOCAT is the place where students meet with their instructors in an advanced technology lab environment to receive focused, hands-on training in the use of the latest technology for alternative energy and advanced manufacturing,” Hart said. “Since many of the jobs of the future do not yet exist, the GOCAT is the place where the fundamental building blocks of technology will be discovered and explored by students so success can be realized when the future jobs arrive.”
Job Outlook Good
Despite recent layoffs and plant closures in the area, state officials expect employment in the manufacturing sector in south-central Missouri to grow by 8.5 percent by 2022, with the total number of job openings coming from new growth increasing by 28.5 percent, according to Sheila Barton, project manager of Missouri State-West Plains’ Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Program, which provided partial funding for GOCAT.
“Occupations are divided into ‘now,’ ‘next’ and ‘later’ categories based on the typical training and education required,” Barton said. “‘Now’ occupations usually require one to 12 months of on-the-job training. ‘Next’ occupations usually require more than one year of on-the-job training and can additionally need specific work experience. These occupations often require an associate’s degree or vocational certificate. ‘Later’ occupations usually require a bachelor’s degree or higher and may need specific work experience. Providing our students with a pathway to the anticipated growth in business and industry will not only meet the current needs, but also the ‘next’ and ‘later’ needs of the future. Having a prepared workforce will attract new businesses and industries now.”
Some of the careers students who complete the degree and certificate programs can pursue include alternative energy entrepreneur, automated manufacturing technician, biofuels technician, electrician’s apprentice, field service technician, hydraulics and pneumatics technician, manufacturing technician, robotics technician, solar energy technician and wind energy technician, Hart said. University officials added the average salary of these types of positions statewide is $40,108, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) at the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
“If you have a love of life-long learning, the AAS in Technology is the degree to pursue,” Hart said. “Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, as is the knowledge base of this area of study and practice. To keep up with advances in technology, the technician must continually study and learn in order to solve current problems, as well as the problems of the future.”
Registration for these and other fall semester classes is going on now at Missouri State-West Plains. For more information about admission and enrollment procedures, visit www.wp.missouristate.edu or call the admissions office at 417-255-7955 or toll free at 1-888-466-7897.