Possible OTC expansion could address skilled labor shortage in tri-lakes area

A possible Ozarks Technical Community College expansion would help grow technical education at several campuses, including the Table Rock campus in Hollister.

Elected officials in Hollister say the additional courses could help address the shortage of skilled workers in the area.

Patriot Heat and Air is one of many tri-lakes area businesses that needs trained people to put on the payroll.

"We have a high demand for electricians, HVAC, and plumbers but not a lot of school or trade experience in this area. Basically, [our employees] come from Springfield or farther or [get training through] apprenticeships," Owner and CEO Miranda Thoendel said.

Thoendel says these are high-paying jobs that often aren't getting filled.

"A skilled tradesman is easily a $50,000 a year to a six figure a year job. Everyone seems to think, well, you need a liberal arts degree to have a good financial career. The skilled tradesman is a very underestimated career," Thoendel said.

That's part of why Ozarks Technical Community College leaders want to add more technical courses at the Table Rock campus. It is something city officials say will not only benefit the worker but the entire region.

"Jobs are central to a growing economy and there is a definite need for technical type training in addition to general education," City of Hollister Alderman Phil Carman said.

He and the rest of the members passed a resolution to support the OTC ballot issue that would extend the current 5 cent tax levy and add an additional 5 cent tax levy for the next 20 years.

"Workforce development is extremely important to improving the overall economy," Carman said.

Many students say by getting an education locally, they'll be able to stay local and add to the workforce by joining businesses right here at home.

"You get the most bang for your buck when you go to OTC," Student Ashley Yancey said.

"To be able to provide them quality training up front, sets them up for success in the businesses that they go into. It's a must," Thoendel said.

Voters in the entire district will go to the polls April 3.