Despite being the leading technical school in the state, State Technical College of Missouri was doing some learning of its own Friday.
State Tech invited dozens of industry professionals to campus to discuss current program offerings and institutional data, while also collecting feedback for how to improve.
The college hosts two advisory council meetings each year to check in with industry partners corresponding with its 26 technical programs and get practical industry updates.
“Our instructors come out of industry, they come here and they’re current with what’s going on in their industry when they come here. But then they’re no longer in the industry after they start teaching here,” Dean of Technology Ben Berhorst said. “Our advisory councils come here, keep us current, tell us what we’re doing a good job at, tell us what we could be doing a better job at and what direction the industry is going.”
Advisory councils are made up of roughly five to six people from all aspects of an industry — from business owners to service managers — who work with a corresponding faculty leader within a technical program at State Tech.
Berhorst said State Tech is always interested in hearing about technology developments and recommendations, industry trends gaining momentum and future job projections from the industry representatives.
GPS knowledge, for example, is becoming more common within heavy equipment operation, Berhorst said, so faculty and advisory councils began discussing Friday how to incorporate it within the curriculum, who is using it, and to what level students need to be taught it.
State Tech’s utility systems technician program, which is one of its most popular with seven students already enrolled for next year, came out of advisory council suggestions a little over four years ago, Berhorst said.
“This program was actually born from advisory council input saying there’s a huge need here, and we need to be putting out graduates to fill that need,” he said.
Some councils also invite students to provide input and talk about their experiences within programs.
“They think it’s awesome because it’s a direct connection to the industry that they’re going to end up serving and working in,” Berhorst said.
Berhorst said good advisory councils are critical for the long-term success of the college as it attempts to stay relevant with industries and technological developments.
At the same time, it’s an opportunity for State Tech to provide institutional updates and market students to employers.
The Utility Systems Technician Advisory Council began its meeting Friday by reviewing recruitment, enrollment, retention and graduation data for the program.
Cole Schaefer, the Utility Systems Technician Department chairman, reviewed plans to enroll 50 students in the program next year and said the college has started admissions tours for prospective students.
“Engagement is good though, I’ve got quite a few applicants in there that I’m working with to get a complete application,” Schaefer said. “We’re at seven right now. We want to hit probably around 53 or 54, that inflated cap, so that by the time the fall semester starts we’re looking at having two full sections.”
Schaefer also provided job placement updates on the previous class of students to graduate from the program.
The advisory councils also heard from State Tech President Shawn Strong about the college’s record achievements and provided recommendations for ways State Tech staff can engage in professional development.
“All of these different angles come together and talk about what direction is industry going, what’s best for everybody, what’s best for our graduates and what’s best for industry,” Berhorst said. “It’s kind of a win-win.”