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The Unemployed Seek Educational and Training Opportunities

As people lose their jobs, they're looking for the best way to position themselves for jobs that are available in this tight job market. Community colleges are training workers in fields where jobs are available, keeping in mind that many workers need to begin drawing a paycheck as soon as possible. KSMU's Missy Shelton looks at how Ozarks Community College is responding to the economic downturn.

Scott Fisher worked for a couple of years making furniture.

Fisher has been looking for a job since December. But instead of a job, he found an opportunity to learn a new skill that he hopes eventually will lead to a job. He’s just completing a 5-week truck driving program through Ozarks Technical Community College. Rufus Kelly is one of the instructors…

Sounds pretty good to Kathy Smith. She quit her job as a healthcare technician to learn how to drive a truck…she expects to make more money hauling goods than she did drawing blood.

But Smith doesn’t expect truck driving to bring her easy money.

The truck driver training program is just one of several popular educational courses at Ozarks Technical Community College…popular because so many people are looking for second careers after getting laid off.

Hal Higdon is president of O-T-C. He says the economic downturn has created demand for educational and training opportunities.

Higdon says OTC can provide help to practical all workers, even if they don’t have a high school diploma…in those cases, there’s a FREE program aimed at helping people get their GED.

O-T-C offers the GED program at different sites around the area and enrollment is up as much as 25 percent in some places.For workers who already have a GED, high school diploma, or some college coursework, O-T-C provides training in fields where there are jobs…healthcare is a big one. Higdon says the health-related educational programs at O-T-C are very popular.

Despite how it may sound, Bruce Clemens doesn’t work in a hospital…but healthcare is an apt metaphor for what he does.

“Here” is the Missouri Career Center. Clemens works for O-T-C as the Workforce Liaison but his office is off campus, at the Missouri Career Center. Because of the number of unemployed people looking to develop new skills, O-T-C decided to have a regular presence at the career center.

And Clemens says that’s the key…Directing people to educational opportunities that are appropriate for them and will provide them with a highly marketable skill. And while there are jobs out there, especially in healthcare, for people who have the right training, Clemens says it still is an emotional time for people.

That’s why Clemens says his is a message of hope. He says if people will simply come in to the Missouri Career Center, they’ll have help assessing their needs and developing a plan for the future. Hope for the future is something truck driving student Scott Fisher knows all about.