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Industry Officials Think Center for Workforce Innovation Will Strengthen Economic Competitiveness

December 02, 2011


Center for Workforce Innovation  
St. Louis Community College's new Center for Workforce Innovation offers programs designed around the needs of the industry sector that will prepare students for jobs in high-tech fields.

The collaborative efforts of St. Louis Community College and a spectrum of businesses and industry representatives have produced workforce solutions that many believe will drive economic recovery.

One such endeavor is STLCC’s new Center for Workforce Innovation, which houses some of the college’s newest and most cutting-edge workforce training programs, including several that were targeted in the Training for Tomorrow Initiative, as well as other innovative instructional spaces and a public access computing center. Training for Tomorrow is a $12 million initiative to help Missouri community colleges create or expand training programs that prepare students for jobs in high-tech fields that are expected to contribute to economic recovery. 

College officials and industry representatives believe the programs offered at the CWI will strengthen economic competitiveness, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

“Instructional spaces are innovative in design and use, labs are designed around the needs of the industry sector, and they also serve as flexible space that allows us to customize programs to meet specific employer needs,” said Rod Nunn, STLCC’s vice chancellor for workforce and community development. “The programs themselves are innovative in their scheduling and their availability to our partners or companies in the community. We will be offering on-time, on-target and on-site training to accommodate the evolving demands of business and industry. The strategic alliances are so incredible behind what you see in this facility.”

One of the CWI’s centerpiece programs is the St. Louis Aerospace Institute. It began in 2007 as a pre-employment program for Boeing, delivering technical instruction in aerospace structures. In 2009 the training expanded to include mechanical/electrical systems. A grant from the U.S. Department of Labor laid the groundwork to further expand this program to the general aerospace industry cluster as well as establish composites material training capability. It also includes new composites fabrication and assembly labs.

“Boeing is committed to partnering with educational institutions like St. Louis Community College to create programs geared toward enhancing workforce development,” said Bill Schnettgoecke, vice president of Boeing Defense, Space & Security Supply and Operations Chain and Senior St. Louis Site Executive. “The customized training program is one example of the tremendous success achieved through industry-academic partnerships. This once five-week sheet metal assembly riveting program has since expanded to 10 weeks to include basic aircraft mechanical and electrical training, and has produced more than 100 graduates who have been trained in key skills needed for the aircraft assembly process. Not only do programs like this help the individuals who benefit from the training, they also benefit the aerospace industry as a whole – filling a need for skilled talent and developing the work force of the future.”

Boeing and STLCC have partnered for more than 20 years.  
STLCC's partnership with Boeing has grown to
include high-performance employee training. 

For more than 20 years, the college’s Florissant Valley campus has worked with WCD to collaborate and provide training to the community, as well as some of the largest manufacturers and small businesses, skilled trades and other community partners. The partnership with Boeing began in the mid-1980s, with an associate degree program to meet professional certification requirements for engineering and technical staff of then-McDonnell Douglas. It has grown to include high-performance employee training, and service by company representatives as instructors and advisory board members.

In addition to Boeing, many of the partners have lent their expertise to assist with program design at the CWI. Those partners include GKN Aerospace, Essex Industries, Hussman, the United Auto Workers, Carpenters International Union, Better Family Life, Inc., the St. Louis County Workforce Division, and the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment.

“To ensure Missouri’s future economic competitiveness, we have to be producers of high-tech business services, and we can’t do that without a strong workforce,” Nunn said. 

While one goal of CWI programming is to build career pathways that lead directly to employment for participants, another objective is to drive participants toward further education and credentials, including certificates and degrees at the community college level, as well as articulation to four-year institutions.

For Florissant Valley, the CWI provides opportunities to enhance programs that were initiated at the Emerson Center for Engineering and Manufacturing (ECEM), which opened in 2003.

“We’re going to be able to expand some of those programs that started over there and provide benefit to the students actually in those degree programs,” said Marcia Pfeiffer, Florissant Valley president. “Our vision when we moved down the path several years ago after the ECEM opened was to continue developing cutting-edge programming that is offered through that kind of high-tech facility into activities that support the newest job opportunities – certainly the Aerospace Institute is going to be doing that. The composites lab here is a lone-of-a-kind lab in this region.”