Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 9

Above: One of the most popular courses at State Tech is the Heavy Equipment Operations program, where students rotate through various pieces of equipment to become proficient in all
aspects of earthmoving. Above right: Shannon Holsten shows off her newly acquired airbrush painting skills learned in the Auto Collision Technology program.
advanced robotics to power sports technology - that are unique
to the college. Enrollment now tops 1,200.
State Tech is seeing record enrollment for a simple reason. Its
close connection with industry professionals ensures students graduate with the exact skills required by today's employers. Each program has its own cast of industry advisors who work with instructors
to craft the curriculum.
"We couldn't do it without our industry support," Shawn says. "We
have somewhere around 400 advisory board members who participate. They meet twice a year. They come in together and then they go
out into their breakout sessions with their individual programs."
One of those industry contacts is Steve Sellenriek, vice president of Sellenriek
Construction Co., a 1997 graduate and current member of the State Tech Board
of Regents. "We've got 180 employees and I think more than 40 are State Tech
graduates," Steve says. "We've been going through quite a growth spurt in the
last couple of years. State Tech has really enabled us to do that by getting their
graduates out there. We can turn them around quicker and make them profitable faster than we can with someone off the street."
The industry connection doesn't end with advice. Most of the programs also
benefit from donations of cutting-edge equipment so that students are trained
using the latest technology. For example, when designing the new welding
building that opened this year, State Tech worked closely with Lincoln Electric, a major manufacturer of welding equipment and an industry partner with
the college. The result is a center with rows of gleaming red welders, including
robotic welding equipment and computer-controlled machines.
"We wanted the nicest facility in the Midwest," Shawn says. "They assured
me we would when we were all done and I think we do. We opened another section of welding to meet the student and industry demand."
Elsewhere, the yellow earth movers made by Caterpillar train the next generation of heavy equipment operators. Students in this program go through a series
of 8-week sequences that expose them to dozers, scrapers, backhoes, excavators and more equipment. They also will earn a commercial driver's license, a
requirement for many fields of study at the college.
"That is an extremely expensive program," Shawn says. "From a statewide
standpoint, you can only afford to have one of those in the state. That's what we
do well. That is our mission, to deliver specialized technical programs."
Over the years, the college has listened closely to the need for new programs
as the job force evolves. In 1997, State Tech launched its Electrical Distribution
Systems program to meet the need for new linemen to replace those retiring.
Starting a lineman training program was the idea of the late Gibby Hilkemeyer, former manager of Three Rivers Electric Cooperative in Linn. It originally
was based on the needs of the state's electric cooperatives, which helped get the
program off the ground by donating equipment, offering scholarships, providing
internships and ultimately hiring its graduates.
Students in the program train alongside electric cooperative employees dur-

ing schools held at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives in
Jefferson City. Instructors for those schools include State Tech alumni
Craig Moeller, who graduated from the first lineman class at the college, and Tim Pirtle, a former Black River Electric lineman and current training instructor for the association.
Trevor Bax is one graduate of the lineman training program
who went on to a career with an electric cooperative. "My dad
was a lineman for Three Rivers," says the Macon Electric Cooperative journeyman lineman. "You always want to do what your
dad does, so it was an easy choice for me. I heard good things
about the internships and getting a degree. My class graduated
with 100 percent going into their career field."
His formal training was in stark contrast to that of his father, Mike Bax, who
learned his skills through an on-the-job apprenticeship.
"Our power line program, which is one of our flagship programs, is hard to
get into," Shawn says. "They are going to have to really have a passion for that
career. That is true of all of our programs. If you really don't know what you
want to do in life, then we are probably not a good home for you."
Those who make the cut for the specialized programs often find themselves
courted by industry recruiters. "The students are in such demand at State Tech
that if an employer shows up at our career fair and expects to hire somebody,
they are going to be disappointed," Shawn says. "They are going to have to build
a relationship with that program, the faculty and those students."
Besides the new welding center, State Tech recently opened its new Health
Science Center on the campus east of Linn. And work on its newest classroom
- the Utility Technician Center and Safety Village - is already underway.
This program will train students to meet the need for technicians for the telecommunications grid. Safety Village - a mock subdivision - will teach them to
work without disturbing underground utilities. The planned 50,000-square-foot
indoor lab will allow pole climbing, directional boring and bucket truck work
inside where weather won't be a factor.
Normally college enrollment suffers when the economy is good. The fact that
State Tech is setting enrollment records is a testament to its mission of providing skilled labor that matches the needs of employers.
"Every time I give a speech to kids I say I should have stopped with that
two-year degree," says Shawn, who first earned a tech degree in heating and
cooling. "This day and age you go to the nice subdivision and you don't know if
the person is a lawyer or a diesel mechanic. They do well. They do very well."
Adds Steve, "What people need to understand is these students are coming
out of school with little to no debt. And they are walking into jobs that are paying
them between $45,000 and $50,000 a year. And then they go up from there. It
is really the crown jewel of the state."
For more information about State Technical College of Missouri, call 573-8975000 or visit

Below left: Aviation Maintenance students benefit from working on all types of aircraft, including jets and helicopters. Below right: Automotive Collision Technology students get advice from
instructor Phil Wideman. While classroom education is still a big part of every program at State Tech, the courses are heavily weighted toward hands-on training.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2018

Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Intro
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Contents
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