Developing Tomorrow’s Workforce: Missouri’s State Tech Caters to Construction Industry
Industry partners include dealers and manufacturers representing a range of equipment.
With roots dating back to 1961, the State Technical College of Missouri – commonly known as State Tech – is leading the charge to help prepare the next generation of construction workers and related professionals.
The school, located in Linn, Missouri, about 100 miles west of St. Louis, offers two-year degrees and other special training programs designed to give students a headstart in areas including business, agriculture, computer technology, health sciences, manufacturing, transportation technology, diesel technology, construction and utilities.
Over the last five years, student enrollment at State Tech has grown by more than 65 percent, from about 1,200 to more than 2,000.
“We have an incredible value proposition,” State Tech president Dr. Shawn Strong says of the growth. “We have over a 99 percent placement rate, and we are in the top 10 with regard to salaries of students. On average, a student who goes through a two-year program at State Tech is going to make more money 10 years after graduation than a student from a regional four-year university.”
State Tech offers several programs of potential interest for utility contractors.
A big part of that success has been a strong collaboration with industry.
“Every one of our programs has a robust advisory council that gives guidance to the program,” Strong says. “In addition, we have representatives from companies on campus almost every day, with more than 300 employers coming to our career fairs. To make a college like this work, depends on partnerships with industry.”
One company that has been involved is contractor Emery Sapp & Sons Inc.
“We have been involved with State Tech for several years,” says Bob Snyder, vice president of Emery Sapp & Sons, and president of the NUCA of Greater Kansas City chapter. “With our corporate headquarters being in Columbia, Missouri, in the center of the state, its proximity to State Tech in Linn, makes it a natural fit. We have several of our managers and executives, myself included, that sit on various advisory boards for the college. It is a true partnership where they provide educated and trained students who want to enter the workforce with a headstart by already having industry-specific basic skills, while we provide support and advisory oversight to help craft the various programs and curriculum to meet the needs of our industry.”
Training includes hands-on learning opportunities in actual field conditions.
State Tech offers several programs of potential interest for utility contractors, notably with its Construction division. Areas include Civil Construction Technology, Civil Engineering Technology, Drafting and Design Engineering Technology, Electrical Technology and Heavy Equipment Operations. The school’s Utilities/Linesman division offers Electrical Distribution Systems and Utility Technician programs that may also be of interest to NUCA members.
Unlike most of State Tech’s programs, the Heavy Equipment Operations program is a one-year certificate that provides hands-on training for students on dozers/scrapers, loaders, backhoes/excavators, and motor graders and skid steers. In addition, students receive Commercial Driver’s Licenses and OSHA safety training.
The Heavy Equipment Operations program accepts 100 students per year, up from 75, and relies on support from industry to ensure that students are trained on the latest equipment.
“We have over 40 acres dedicated to heavy equipment operations where our students can learn in real-life situations – they are not sitting in simulators, they are driving 40,000-pound pieces of equipment,” Strong says. “We have partners that supply up-to-date equipment each year so that students walk out the door feeling comfortable using the latest technology.”
Industry partners include dealers and manufacturers representing John Deere, Vermeer, Ditch Witch, Versa Lift, Milwaukee Tool and others.
As part of the Diesel Technology division, State Tech is a partner with Caterpillar as part of its ThinkBIG program. State Tech is one of 11 partnerships in the United States that combines lab and classroom training at the school with paid internships at a sponsoring Cat dealership.
With infrastructure continuing to be a hot topic in the United States, and with a promising influx of funding with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021, the future looks bright for the construction industry and increases the need for new workers.
“We are well positioned to support the investment that the federal government is making in infrastructure,” Strong says. “We have three buildings under construction dedicated to infrastructure construction that will help prepare students for jobs in related areas.”
Projects include an expansion to the new Utilities Technology Center and a Safety Village (in partnership with the Missouri One-Call program) dedicated to utility infrastructure construction training.
If you are interested in hiring the next generation of your workforce, getting involved is key, Strong says.
“It is like any business, you need to build relationships,” he says. “Whether it is establishing relationships with the students or faculty, or setting up internship programs, you need multiple touches to attract workers in today’s competitive environment. Hiring our students is all about building a relationship with State Tech.”
Tony Privitera of Mark One Electric of Kansas City was impressed with the school’s potential.
“I went to visit the school to see how NUCA can help find students in the construction industry by connecting State Tech to NUCA Contractor Members and Associate Members from the Kansas City market area,” Privitera says. “And, wow, I was amazed about this hidden gem of a college! What I learned is that we had better hurry up and get in line because this institution is a very well-oiled machine that produces a very high-quality person ready for the workforce. I realized quickly that these students are being hired fast.
“NUCA has 30-plus chapters located all over the United States, and we could help State Tech find locations for the graduates that may want to venture outside of the Missouri market and allow all the NUCA members (from across the United States) access to this high-quality workforce.”
Snyder adds that State Tech has helped ease workforce challenges.
“State Tech continues to provide us with a continual pipeline of young talent eager to enter the workforce with the basic knowledge and skills needed to begin a career in our industry,” Snyder says. “We hire many State Tech graduates each year, and with the current challenges in recruiting, training and retaining workforce these days, I don’t know where we would be without them.” Tags: Education, July August 2022 Print Issue, Training, Workforce Development