- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri’s 12 community college systems are working together to train students for jobs offered by the state’s businesses.

Leaders from the colleges signed an agreement Thursday to officially begin the Missouri Community College Workforce Development Network.

The program will help in cases where a Missouri company needs assistance with employee training but the nearest community college doesn’t have a curriculum or expert faculty in that subject, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/2n4BkKA ).

In those cases, the new network will use resources among all of the state’s two-year schools to meet that business’ needs. For example, schools with the expertise could send information to the community college that needs help, or schools could help each other adopt needed curriculums.

Jeff Pittman, chancellor at St. Louis Community College, said the program is similar to one in Indiana, where he worked before moving to St. Louis in 2015.

“We have a large offering and a lot of skills and faculty here in the St. Louis area,” Pittman said. “A lot of smaller communities may not have the resources we have, so this dissolves the geographic barriers in place for colleges.”

Larger community colleges such as St. Louis, Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City and Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield might field more responsibilities because they have large workforce development programs. But to Pittman, it’s not a burden.

“I really love this idea because, without increasing cost to the state, it allows community colleges to expand their training,” he said.

The network starts as community colleges are facing reduced budgets for the current fiscal year and possibly beyond. Shortly after taking office, Republican Gov. Eric Greitens announced he would withhold about $67 million from Missouri’s colleges - almost $12 million of that from community colleges.

“We understand the difficult budget situation facing the state, and with this partnership, we hope to help grow the state’s economy in two ways,” Rob Dixon, executive director of Missouri Community College Association, said in a statement. “First, we want to help Missourians learn the skills they need to earn higher pay, and second, we hope to connect Missouri businesses with the workforce they need to grow and create jobs.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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