Ozark Technical Community College (OTC) is looking to enroll more students in a tuition-free program.
It’s called SkillUP MO and it’s designed for individuals on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is also referred to as Food Stamps.
This is the second year for SkillUP at OTC and 20 students enrolled. Metropolitan College in Kansas City and St. Louis Community College are also funded by the grant, which is federally funded
Takisha Parham is an OTC Student in the hemodyalisis SkillUP program.
“I really wanted to help people and make a difference,” said Parham.
“Get a career and not have to worry about paying back or anything. That’s a really huge help for me, especially having a kid,” she said.
Instructor Sherri Kinkade says the courses benefits future employers as well as students.
“As an employer, you can hire them and they are already trained, knowing what they need to know and knowing that this is the career choice for them,” Kinkade said.
The courses are anywhere from 3 to 9 months. Other options include medical assistant and pharmacy technician, and technical courses like welding technician, industrial maintenance, and framing and finishing.
Breanna O’Bryan, lead customer service specialist at the Center of Workforce Development at OTC, says everything is included under SkillUP.
“With the welding class, you have your tools covered with that. Same with our healthcare side, if you need scrubs, it covers the scrubs,” said O’Bryan.
Executive Director of Workforce Development at OTC, Jim Abromavitz, says SkillUP is funded by a grant from the Department of Agriculture. He calls the program an investment.
“It’s focused on getting people on Food Stamps a good job, so they are not dependent any longer on Food Stamps” said Abramovitz. “They are an overlooked population.”
Last year, OTC initially received $240,000 dollars for SkillUP. This year that number dropped to $89,000.
“It was a big chunk, but we still have adequate funding to get people into classes and help get them a job,” Abramovitz said.
He’s hoping some 50-50 funding will help prepare more students for the workforce.
“Outside companies might wanna set up a fund, where they would fund 50% and the grant would fund the other 50%,” he said. “For people who would train in classes and they could hire them.”
Meanwhile, Parham, in the hemodyalisis SkillUP program, says she won’t stop here.
“I also want to further my education,” she said. “Hemodyalisis is a huge step going into the nursing program. So, I’m really grateful for that as well.”
Last year OTC enrolled 86 students in the SkillUP courses.
Missourinet media partner KOLR TV contributed this story. Written by Jenifer Abreu.