MSU-WP receives grant to expand welding program

Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) has been awarded a $437,000 grant from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) to expand the Terry L. "Bo" Pace Advanced Welding and Fabrication Technology Program.
The money will be used to hire a second welding instructor and develop a night welding program that will double the number of students trained for area welding jobs, MSU-WP Workforce Development Director Sheila Barton said.
"We are so grateful for this grant! It will allow us to train more students in a skilled trade that will support the local and regional workforce," Barton said.
"Once again, the Delta Regional Authority is coming alongside Missouri State-West Plains as we increase our workforce development capabilities, especially as it regards the Pace Welding Program," MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster said. "We're thankful for the investment in our program and our community, where highly skilled welders always seem to be needed among our manufacturing partners."
MSU-WP's current workforce development programs focus on entry level industry technician training in the areas of advanced welding and fabrication, advanced manufacturing, mechatronics and manufacturing management, Barton explained.
This grant money will specifically focus on building the capacity of the Terry L. 'Bo' Pace Advanced Welding and Fabrication Technology Program from 15 to 30 students, thus creating economic transformation for families and continuing a positive economic impact in the region by creating a pipeline of skilled labor for local and regional industry, she said.
According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), manufacturers in MSU-WP's seven-county service area report they have more than 100 job openings for maintenance technicians, welders/fabricators and various other types of manufacturing sector jobs. Further, employers indicate they expect to hire an additional 500 workers over the next four to six years. Salaries for these positions range from $40,000 to $50,000, according to O*Net Online, an online tool for career exploration and job analysis.
"Our regional workforce partners have provided evidence that there are many individuals who are available for work but do not possess the essential skills necessary for the automated and technical jobs in the region," Barton said. "The need for skill-specific training resources available to assist candidates, supplemented with more technical on-going training for incumbent workers, will provide an increase in qualified candidates for manufacturing, enhance current workers' skills and education, and grow the economic base of our rural communities."
MSU-WP was one of 28 projects funded by the DRA through its Delta Workforce Grant Program (DWP). Funding for the program was made in part by the 2021 bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Joe Biden.
DWP is an initiative designed to nurture local workforce ecosystems and increase economic competitiveness by providing grants to support workforce training and education programs throughout the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions. The program supports projects and initiatives that create a more vibrant economic future for the Delta region by expanding opportunities to recruit, train, and retain a diverse and local workforce; aligning workforce and economic development strategies; creating sustainable talent pipelines; establishing or enhancing locally and regionally significant sector-based partnerships; and supporting enhanced workforce productivity through investments in innovative programming and services.
The DRA was established in 2000 as a formal framework for joint federal-state collaboration to promote and encourage the economic development of the lower Mississippi River and Alabama Black Belt regions. To fulfill this purpose, DRA invests in projects supporting transportation infrastructure, basic public infrastructure, workforce training, and business development. DRA's region encompasses 252 counties and parishes in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.
For more information about the DRA and DWP, visit DRA.gov.
For more information about MSU-WP's workforce development programs, visit WP.MissouriState.edu/WorkforceDevelopment or call 417-255-7784.
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