St. Joseph Needs a Community College

Recently, legislation was filed by State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer that would change the community college district for St. Joseph and Buchanan County from Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City (MCC) to North Central Missouri College. The outcome of this legislation may determine if St. Joseph has any future community college presence.

Think of education and training as a pipeline that starts at Pre-K and ends at graduate school. Of course, there are places that you can exit the pipeline, such as a high school diploma, post-secondary certificate or a bachelor’s degree. The pipeline allows you to exit and enter as you wish. In St. Joseph we have a gap in our education pipeline. Certain training and educational programs are missing, which is detrimental to sustaining a skilled workforce to support many of our local businesses, particularly, manufacturing. We need programs that train welders, machining, factory maintenance and robotics. St. Joseph is the third largest manufacturing center in the state with almost one-third of our workforce engaged in manufacturing and production careers. Growing and retaining a skilled workforce is critical to the community’s future economic growth.

St Joseph has been in MCC’s community college district for many years, but until recently they had no presence in our community. The business community determined we needed access to more vocational/technical programs, as well as certain certificates to satisfy the need for a skilled local workforce. The Chamber worked with MCC and others to create a presence in St. Joseph. Programming has begun but most would agree, including MCC, that more programing is needed.

We are fortunate to have Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. It is a vitally important asset to our community. We are also fortunate to have a good public school system, as well as private schools and of course Hillyard Technical Center, our vocational/technical high school that serves the region. What we are lacking is a strong community college presence. MCC has stepped into the void and is working to address the local need.

In my opinion the real issue is that we need a community college presence and programming in St. Joseph. That community college must be committed, provide the resources necessary for success and have the desire to be part of our community. North Central Missouri College has stated if a change is made to the District, they would not have a presence in St. Joseph, but instead serve St. Joseph from their Savannah and Trenton campuses. Regardless of the outcome of the proposed legislation, what we cannot afford as a community is to find ourselves with no community college presence in St. Joseph. That outcome would be detrimental to business, the community and to our local students hoping to seek an education and career in St. Joseph.

St. Joseph needs a community college! In St. Joseph!
Patt Lilly
St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce