Placeholder, Hillyard Technical Center

Hillyard Technical Center, 3434 Faraon St.

St. Joseph added another arrow to its quiver with the addition of Metropolitan Community College to the educational landscape.

The community college system, based in Kansas City, announced plans last year to expand into St. Joseph as part of an agreement with the St. Joseph School District. MCC will offer adult education programs at the Hillyard Technical Center building on Faraon Street, with the district continuing to handle vocational training for high school students throughout the area.

This week, MCC outlined program offerings in practical nursing, radiologic technology and surgical technology, starting this fall at the St. Joseph site. These one- or two-year programs, previously offered through the district at Hillyard and also at MCC’s Health Science Institute in Kansas City, give graduates a pathway to solid jobs in front-line health professions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for licensed practical nurses to increase 11% from 2018 to 2028. Opportunities for both radiologic and surgical technology workers is expected to rise 9% in the same period.

MCC’s expansion into St. Joseph got high centered due to the coronavirus pandemic. The community college offered an evening welding class in St. Joseph during the spring semester but was unable to launch its certified nursing assistant program as planned. A timeline for those courses will depend on when MCC is able to get back into the Hillyard building.

In the long term, MCC’s presence brings tangible benefits because a community college offers both a fast track to a career and a gateway to continued studies at a four-year college or university. The MCC course offerings are of particular value in St. Joseph because a community college provides the kinds of job-ready skills and adult retraining opportunities that the city’s large manufacturing base needs. It also holds potential for those who seek a career change as the economy slides into recession.

We wouldn’t claim to have all the answers for the class of 2020 as these students prepare for the next stage of their lives. It doesn’t matter if they have a plan for a four-year college, a community college, a training program or the military.

It does matter that they have some sort of plan, because a high school diploma by itself is not going to cut it. Consider that median weekly earnings are $712 for someone with a high school diploma and $836 for those with a two-year associate’s degree, according to government data. It rises to $1,179 for someone with a bachelor’s degree.

St. Joseph is fortunate that Metropolitan Community College is now part of the plan.