When Gov. Jay Nixon asked what it would take to get the most unemployed people back into the workforce during his first visit to Three Rivers Community College in October, president Dr. Devin Stephenson simply replied, "Capacity."
Among other Missouri community colleges recently approved under the governor's Training for Tomorrow initiative, Three Rivers will receive about $750,000 to be used to help establish an environment for students to acquire hands-on experience in high-demand fields.
"As employers begin to hire again, they are going to need workers with training in fields such as health care and public safety, which is why these programs at Three Rivers are so valuable," said Nixon, in an e-mail Tuesday. "Training for Tomorrow will help get these expanded programs up and running as quick as possible to get more Missourians enrolled, trained and back on the job."
The community college will use the money toward the purchase of up-to-date curriculum, equipment and learning tools to provide students skills for careers in criminal justice, firefighting, nursing, surgical technology and as emergency medical technicians, according to Three Rivers officials.
Stephenson said he is currently looking at a "host of options" of where to establish an advanced clinical simulation lab that will relieve hospitals that are maxed out with students fulfilling the clinical portion of their degree, causing a waiting list within the nursing and allied health program at Three Rivers.
"Education has to be relevant or programs and services become obsolete and unviable, so we're constantly changing and altering our viewpoint," Stephenson said. "We're looking at creative, innovative methodologies to deliver education more efficiently."
Also with the start-up funding, an interactive technology unit containing "Laser Shot" software will be acquired to train law enforcement students in virtual scenarios without the risk of actually being "shot at," according to Stephenson. As an alumnus of the national citizens' academy under the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the president has previously had the chance to test out the program in Alabama, he said.
Lastly, Three Rivers will buy state-of-the-art firefighter equipment, including turn-out gear, air packs with masks and personal alert safety system devices, to sustain the courses that have been implemented this year with the help of city and county fire departments lending the materials.
The goal is for the noncredit classes under the public safety arm at Three Rivers to be modularized into two-year degree programs, according to Dr. Wes Payne, vice president for learning.
"Our capacity building projects are designed to have a high impact with low dollar cost to Three Rivers and the community," Payne said. "Through partnerships and cooperation, we are looking to utilize taxpayer resources most effectively to give people actual employability skills."
Sponsored by the Butler County Commission, the Training for Tomorrow grant comes through the community development block grant program administered by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
"We would do anything we could to help the college expand their efforts," said Ed Strenfel, presiding commissioner. "We're proud of TRCC and the job they do in the county because it brings commerce and job opportunities."