GOCAT 2016 News Stories

GOCAT to offer courses this Fall

APRIL 4, 2016

Assistant professor, Jim Hart, inspects equipment that will be used to train students.

Jim Hart, assistant professor of computer information systems, inspects equipment that will be used to train students at the new Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT) in West Plains. GOCAT is a partnership between Missouri State University-West Plains, the South Central Career Center and the City of West Plains.

With renovations soon underway on the new Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT), officials at Missouri State University-West Plains and the South Central Career Center (SCCC) are now gearing up to begin offering advanced manufacturing and technology courses at the center this fall.

GOCAT is a partnership between the University, SCCC and the City of West Plains to bring advanced technological training to area residents. Thanks to a $225,000 Delta Regional Authority grant and additional funding from the city, officials are converting the former city scales building on Howell Avenue into an advanced manufacturing training center where area residents can develop the skills and knowledge needed to fill the technologically-advanced manufacturing positions of the 21st century.

"Manufacturing techniques are evolving at a rapid pace today due to continuing advances in technology," said Dr. Dennis Lancaster, dean of academic affairs at Missouri State-West Plains. "University and SCCC officials have worked with area industries to design courses and educational programs that will provide students with the skills and knowledge set needed to fill positions in these businesses and industries."

To that end, Missouri State-West Plains and SCCC will pool their resources to offer the university's Associate of Applied Science in Technology degree with options in either Alternative Energy or Advanced Manufacturing. Certificate programs in these same two study areas also will be offered. In addition, customized training programs will be provided on an as-needed basis through the center to area businesses and industries.

"With each program, students will have broad exposure to alternative energy and manufacturing technology and be prepared to enter the workforce or establish a business in alternative energy and manufacturing," said Jim Hart, assistant professor of computer information systems at Missouri State-West Plains. "Local manufacturers who need specific job improvement skills could also send employees to a single course. Numerous industry partners have applauded the intentional flexibility of the program."

Despite recent layoffs and plant closures in the area, state officials expect employment in the manufacturing sector in south-central Missouri to grow by 8.5 percent by 2022, with the total number of job openings coming from new growth increasing by 28.5 percent, according to Sheila Barton, project manager of Missouri State-West Plains' Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Program.

"Occupations are divided into 'now,' 'next' and 'later' categories based on the typical training and education required," Barton said. "'Now' occupations usually require one to 12 months of on-the-job training. 'Next' occupations usually require more than one year of on-the-job training and can additionally need specific work experience. These occupations often require an associate's degree or vocational certificate. 'Later' occupations usually require a bachelor's degree or higher and may need specific work experience. Providing our students with a pathway to the anticipated growth in business and industry will not only meet the current needs, but also the 'next' and 'later' needs of the future. Having a prepared workforce will attract new businesses and industries now."

Some of the careers students who complete the degree and certificate programs can pursue include alternative energy entrepreneur, automated manufacturing technician, biofuels technician, electrician's apprentice, field service technician, hydraulics and pneumatics technician, manufacturing technician, robotics technician, solar energy technician and wind energy technician, Hart said. University officials added the average salary of these types of positions statewide is $40,108, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) at the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Barton said the programs were developed to serve as few as five students per course with no cap on potential enrollment. "A survey of those impacted by recently announced job losses in West Plains showed that 50 percent intend to enter education," she explained. "With an aggressive manufacturing recruitment and retention program underway in West Plains and a progressive consortium of industry and educational partnerships, GOCAT will have a positive regional impact on citizen employability in a historically impoverished area. Alternative energy development, job creation, existing manufacturer expansion, and industry recruitment are probable results of this program."

Area residents interested in enrolling in the programs through GOCAT will find several technology-based courses on Missouri State-West Plains' schedule this fall. They include Survey of Electronics (TEC 100), Manufacturing Materials and Processes (TEC 111), Introduction to Supply Chain Management (TEC 112), Manufacturing Technology (TEC 165), Welding Technology (TEC 175), Applied Electricity and Electronics (TEC 200) and a Technology Internship course (TEC 299). Other courses for these programs will be offered in future semesters.

The potential for expanding GOCAT programs is only limited by need, Hart said. "Based on the input of the technology advisory board and industry partners, along with the flexibility of the program, GOCAT will be able to produce classes through agile course development to meet requirements as the opportunities arise. As new alternative energy and manufacturing technology is developed and incorporated into industry, specialized courses can be developed in order to prepare the workforce for its arrival," he said.

"For example, the use of robotics in every facet of industry is accelerating due to the efficiency and effectiveness of its use; our workforce needs to be prepared to install, program and maintain that equipment as it continues to arrive," he added. "These programs are purposefully developed with a broad scope in order to produce a versatile workforce capable of adapting to industry needs; however, GOCAT also can provide a depth of technical knowledge for specialized applications as industry grows in the area."

For more information about GOCAT and its programs, contact Barton at (417) 255-7784 or SheilaFBarton@MissouriState.edu.

Ribbon cutting/open house held Friday for Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology

Representatives gather for the offical ribbon cutting of the new GOCAT.

Representatives from the City of West Plains, Missouri State University-West Plains and the West Plains School District were among those on hand Friday for the official ribbon cutting of the new Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology, which provides training for key technological skills in demand by manufacturers. The center is located at 395 Jackie D. Garrett Drive in West Plains.

A large contingent of community leaders and representatives were on hand Friday for the official ribbon cutting of the new Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT) in West Plains, which threw open its doors for public tours of the 16,000-square-foot facility.

Mayor Jack Pahlmann, one of the speakers during the event, told those in attendance how the building – which once housed livestock and was formerly known as the City Scales Building – has been repurposed "from swine to students." "It truly is a magnificent building," Pahlmann told the crowd. "It's amazing to see the transformation. GOCAT is just a wonderful asset for our community."

Located at 395 Jackie Garrett Drive, GOCAT was created as a joint project between the City of West Plains, Missouri State University-West Plains, and the West Plains School District/South Central Career Center. Its purpose is to bring advanced technological training to area residents, who will have access to traditional education as well as key technological skills that are in demand by manufacturers.

Students of the Center will be able to earn an Associate of Applied Science in Technology degree with options in either Alternative Energy or Advanced Manufacturing. Certificate programs in those two study areas also will be offered, along with customized training programs to area businesses and industries.

All three partners share one common goal: to bring jobs to West Plains.

Missouri State University-West Plains Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Dennis Lancaster told those in attendance that creating a highly-trained workforce is a necessity in today's ever-evolving world. "Today's workforce is being challenged by the very same technologies and innovations that provide them with a career in the industry," he said. "Technological advances, like the now-expected advances in our computers and cellphones, pressure industry to do more, at a faster and more efficient rate – and at a higher level of quality."

Currently there are 20 students enrolled at the Center, which has already garnered a Top Five Award of Excellence in the category of Advanced Manufacturing by Expansion Solutions Magazine.

Dr. Lancaster credited the collaboration of the three major partners, along with the guidance of area industry leaders and the support of local legislators, for the launch of the GOCAT facility. He also credited the funding efforts of the Delta Regional Authority, which comes through the DRA's States' Economic Development Assistance Program to support job creation and community development projects.

Including grants and contributions to the estimated value of the facility, Dr. Lancaster pointed out that GOCAT is a $2.5 million investment for the community – which all three partners agree is a small price to pay for the possible impact to West Plains. "Our community, and our region, need this to work," said Dr. Lancaster. "In the coming months and years, you should see students of all ages getting a specific type of training needed by their employer. All of them will learn about new careers and skills, advancing their knowledge in the information age, and preparing for their future."

For more information about the program and services offered by GOCAT, please call the Missouri State University-West Plains office of admissions at 417-255-7955.

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps members help out at GOCAT

A team of 12 AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members recently participated in community service from January – March 31st working with the Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT).

GOCAT is a joint project between the City of West Plains, Missouri State University-West Plains and the West Plains School District/South Central Career Center to bring advanced technological training to area residents. The refurbished 16,000-square-foot Center provides state-of-the-art training for not only traditional education, but also key technology skills that are in demand by manufacturers. All three partners share the common goal of keeping and creating jobs in the West Plains area.

The students from nine states and Sweden, worked on multiple projects including painting, cleaning and installing drywall that supported the renovation of the GOCAT facility. Their help to get this facility ready for use was invaluable, and they all learned new skills as well.

“We can’t thank this team enough for what they have meant to the GOCAT and our efforts to get the facility up and running. We could never have met our deadline without them and we are eternally grateful”, said GOCAT Project Manager, Sheila Barton.

Prior to coming to West Plains, they served with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Durango, CO, and their next project takes them to Kansas City to work with youth within the inner city. This team will graduate from the 10-month program on July 14, 2017.

Student spotlight

Name: Chrisy Barnes
Hometown: West Plains/Caulfield, Missouri
Currently Resides: Pomona, Missouri
Occupation: Manufacturing Engineer III
Family Information: Married for 15 years to my high school sweetheart, Matt Barnes (also an alumni of Missouri State University who received AAS in Telecommunications from Linn Tech). We have two children, Broc who is 11 and Brylee who is eight.

Academic degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Science (BAS) in Technology Management, Missouri State University
  • Associate of Arts General Studies (AA)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Industrial Technology - Mechanical Drafting
  • AAS - General Technology, Missouri State University West Plains

Chrisy Barnes, Pomona, never expected to reach her career goals, but Missouri State University-West Plains not only gave her the education she needed, but also the experiences and life skills to rise to the challenge.

Barnes, who is a Manufacturing Engineer III at Regal-Beloit in West Plains, said, "I am currently in a position—engineering lead—that I thought was unattainable. Careers take on some of the same characteristics as college. Apply yourself, be persistent, always be willing to learn new things, be willing to work with all you encounter and overcome challenges. As you become successful in each of these areas, you will grow as a person and as an employee. They will be rewarded."

She chose Missouri State-West Plains for three reasons: Cost, and with it the ability to use her A+ scholarship to help pay for her education; proximity to home, as she had decided to stay in the West Plains area after graduating high school; and an interest in drafting she had pursued since eighth grade. Later on, after earning her Associate of Applied Science degrees in Industrial Technology-Mechanical Drafting and General Technology, she utilized Missouri State Outreach to complete her bachelor's degree in Technology Management, a degree she has great pride in.

“It is a great mixture of technology, engineering, business and management,” Barnes said. "It reminds me of the phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none,' but this degree allows you to be a master of whatever you choose from all of these different fields but still be able to know some of the others."

Overcoming doubt

"I had given up at one point in my education," Barnes said. "I knew what I wanted, but it seemed impossible to achieve with (what I thought at the time was) my lack of talents. After talking with my advisor, Cathy Proffitt-Boys, I was able to redirect my attention from the lack of talents to what talents I do have and how to apply them to a degree that suited me, not vice-versa. Missouri State-West Plains has the resources to help you become a successful student and have a successful career, but you have to be willing to use these resources—all of them."

To prospective students, Barnes suggests: "Win. Respect. Learn. All careers have obstacles. Your job is not only to overcome these challenges, but to do it with respect to all and to learn from every experience."

GOCAT Assistant Professor Jim Hart receives award for Education Excellence

GOCAT assistant professor Jim Hart recieves award for Education Excellence.

In an effort to bring advanced technical training to area residents, Missouri State University-West Plains, the South Central Career Center and the City of West Plains have joined forces to develop the Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT). Through GOCAT, residents can complete degree and certificate programs in technology or participate in customized training opportunities.

The center is intended to provide advanced, hands-on manufacturing training to individuals, from high school age through adulthood, who are looking to expand their skills in a technical field. Emphasis areas of training include manufacturing technology, alternative energy and technology management. These degrees are designed to match the skills needed by employers to fill high-wage, high-skill positions in a growth industries.

The degree programs are approved by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and, for the eligible student, are fully approved for federal and state financial aid programs.

Major manufacturers of our area such as DRS Technologies, Armstrong Flooring and Caterpillar, helped develop the training programs to benefit manufacturers of all sizes.