St. Louis Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Center will prepare students to step right into the workforce

Manufacturing, technology, and engineering remain some of the largest industries in St. Louis, but as companies continue to struggle to find employees, St. Louis Community College’s new Advanced Manufacturing Center looks to help fill the gaps.

In August 2023, STLCC broke ground on one of its largest projects to date: the Advanced Manufacturing Center at the Florissant Valley campus. The center is one of six construction projects planned as part of the STLCC Transformed initiative to modernize the college by providing facilities and programming that match the growth and competitiveness of the region. 

The building will be home to numerous workforce program offerings, including the Boeing pre-employment training program, certified welding technician, and HVAC operator technical training, as well as associate degree and certificate programs, including drone and geospatial technology and biomedical electronics technology.

Tom McGovern, dean of STEM and Engineering, has been involved with the Advanced Manufacturing Center since the beginning stages and helped plan the facility’s educational programming. “Part of the oversight of the project was identifying growth areas for the college and making sure the building matched,” he explains. “We looked at some of the new trends and industries to determine what we wanted to have housed right here and how we wanted the building to be adaptable to the future.”

STLCC will also purchase $3 million worth of new advanced manufacturing equipment for the center’s classrooms and lab spaces, after being awarded funding through the federal Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

The center is expected to reach completion this December. Some classes will begin in the spring 2025 semester, and all programs are slated to be available in the new facility by fall 2025.

Bringing Together Workforce and Credit Programs

Currently, most of the workforce training programs at STLCC–Florissant Valley are housed in the Center for Workforce Innovation, while the campus’ STEM credit programs are housed in the Emerson Center for Engineering and Manufacturing. With the new Advanced Manufacturing Center, all of these programs will be under the same roof, which should create more synergy and growth between credit and noncredit programs.

“We see ourselves as a gateway to many well-paying careers, and that’s true with many of our programs,” says McGovern. “All of these programs are one to three semesters, and people can get good jobs with family-sustaining wages at the end. We want to bring awareness to the local community that these jobs are here.”

That approach is demonstrated by STLCC’s Boeing pre-employment training program. As part of the program, STLCC instructional designers teamed up with Boeing to develop two pathways: sheet metal assembler and riveter (SMAR) and composites. 

Upon successful completion of the program, graduates are guaranteed an interview with Boeing, and in 2022, the program celebrated its 1,000th job placement. With the new Advanced Manufacturing Center, the training program will expand to welcome more students per cohort and include dedicated sheet metal and fabrication classrooms.

In 2023, STLCC’s Boeing program was named a finalist for the Bellwether Award, which annually recognizes innovative programs that are successfully leading community colleges into the future. The program was recognized for its commitment to promoting economic development by creating a sustainable pipeline for future hiring.

According to Becky Epps, manager of the college’s Center for Workforce Innovation, a unique benefit of the program is that it is led by instructors who bring years of real-world experience to the classroom. 

“When developing this program, we knew it was imperative to have high-quality instructors, so we sought to hire Boeing retirees to serve on our staff,” she says. “The knowledge of the very specialized aerospace manufacturing industry, combined with the respect for the work they bring to the classroom, is invaluable.”

Additionally, the Advanced Manufacturing Center will house high school students taking dual enrollment STEM courses at STLCC. “This building will allow these students to see all kinds of careers and programs that are available if they want to take their education even further,” McGovern says. “If you’re looking through a classroom’s window and you see people making things that physically weren’t there before, that can be very exciting for these students.”

By bringing the workforce and credit programs together under one roof, it also allows students taking a class or two at STLCC to see the many program opportunities and career possibilities available to them. The Advanced Manufacturing Center was designed to promote program visibility, thanks to large picture windows and glass walls to encourage safe and engaging tours for prospective students and the community.

“Most times, people start out with a pure skill-based class. They might take a welding class or an HVAC class, for example, and then they realize they may want more training,” McGovern says. “By being in the same building, they can walk by our worker spaces and see exactly what that skill will look like built into a full-credit program… That’s really what we want to do: help change peoples’ lives, to give them an opportunity into a pathway that can be very successful, going through any of these programs.”

In March 2024, STLCC was also awarded more than $1.75 million in funding from both Congress and the state to jumpstart the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) program. With these funds, STLCC will focus on geospatial workforce expansion to engage students for STEM occupations through three new certificate programs, which can be used toward high-demand employment or as a component of a credit program that leads to an AAS degree.

In addition to a GIS certificate of specialization, students can train with state-of-the-art equipment to receive credits and certifications in survey technician and commercial drone piloting. “These programs are a bit like the welding and HVAC programs, where even after the first session, you can get the job,” McGovern says. “With the drone program, once you complete the first class, that’s all you need to get your commercial license and start making money. Everybody who’s gone through one semester of welding is getting a job. One semester after machining, and you’re getting a job. These can all be accelerated programs or right-to-work kind of jobs.”

Biomedical electronics technicians, who play a crucial role in ensuring the proper functioning and safety of medical devices, are in high demand at local hospitals as well. Once a certificate of proficiency in biomedical electronics technology is earned in that first class at STLCC, students can go straight to work or apply credits toward an electrical/electronic engineering technology AAS degree through STLCC’s stackable credentials.

“We’re using the word ‘transformed’ a lot around the college right now,” McGovern says. “We’ve always been about expanding minds and changing lives, but this building gives us an even better opportunity. The opportunities are already here, but by centering these career paths and putting a spotlight on them on campus, it brings better awareness.”


This post was created by SLM Partner Studio on behalf of St. Louis Community College. To learn more about St. Louis Community College and the Advanced Manufacturing Center, visit stlcc.edu/transformed.

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