NEOSHO, Mo. —
Wayne Cates knows exactly why he wants to be a paramedic.
“I like helping people; that’s the No. 1 mission,” he said. “And two, it’s not monotonous.”
Cates recently began training courses at Crowder College, which has received a $2.9 million grant that will help update and expand its fire science, EMT/paramedic, law enforcement and public management programs. It will also provide for training for instructors as well as new equipment and supplies, grant director Cindy Branscum said.
Details of the three-year grant, which is from the U.S. Department of Labor and begins Oct. 1, are still pending, she said. A committee made up of the heads of the affected departments, members of the grants office and leaders in the local public safety sector is scheduled to meet as early as next week to begin discussing how to allocate the money, she said.
College President Alan Marble said Crowder was “delighted” to learn that the grant application had been approved.
“We are anxious to work with our partners to put the programs in place,” he said in a statement Thursday.
The grant will boost several public-safety programs at Crowder that have been experiencing a growth spurt and higher demand over the past several years. The emergency medical services program, for example, which trains students to become emergency medical technicians or paramedics, has grown from one EMT training class offered in August 2005 to a program that is now spread across five of the college’s campuses and has a record 77 students this semester, program director Kristin Spencer said.
“I’d like to say it’s the quality education,” Spencer said of the program’s growth, “but I think people understand the state of the economy. They know that the medical field is always going to be in need, and they choose the EMT path.”
Spencer said she found out Thursday morning that Crowder had received the grant and was still trying to understand what that could mean for her program.
“We’re thrilled to be the recipients of this grant, and it’s definitely going to make an impact on this community,” she said.
Cates, who is a firefighter for the Battlefield Fire Protection District, commutes about 2 1/2 hours three days per week between his classes in Neosho and his home in Battlefield, just outside Springfield. Along with the rest of his classmates, he has already completed EMT training and began the 10-month paramedic training course last month.
He chose to pursue a career as a paramedic because of its employability and job opportunities, he said.
“With EMTs, you’ll hear this saying in the field: ‘They’re a dime a dozen,’” he said. “With paramedics, there are more options ... because you have that more advanced skills set.”
Susan Jackson, of Stella, also enrolled in the paramedic training course last month, having finished her EMT training course at Crowder in December 2011. She previously was a licensed practical nurse and a stay-at-home mother of two children who are now 15 and 17 years old.
On Thursday, the class was wrapping up a unit on how to properly give injections and administer IV tubes. Jackson said she looks forward to moving from practicing on static mannequins to animated ones that move and talk. Those types of labs, she said, are her favorite part of the training program.
“Anybody can learn from a book, but a lot of us are hands-on,” she said. “It kind of takes the book and brings it to life.”
As part of the grant, officials at Crowder hope to work with Missouri Southern State University in Joplin to streamline students’ transition from obtaining an associate degree in one of these programs to finishing a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
The university, where degrees in criminal justice or applied science are common among students coming from these programs, is looking into adding an “emergency and disaster management” option with the criminal justice degree, according to Tia Strait, dean of MSSU’s School of Health Sciences, Public Safety and Technology.
“We don’t have anything official yet; we’re in the process of working on it,” she said. “There will be opportunities for these students to finish their bachelor’s degree (at MSSU).”
The grant is part of an $18 million amount that will go toward enhancing Missouri community colleges’ advanced manufacturing and public safety programs, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Wednesday.
“Having the right education and the right skills is critical for competing for the careers of today and tomorrow,” Nixon said in a statement. “Advanced manufacturing and public safety are fields poised for continued growth in Missouri. These programs will help more Missourians compete for jobs in these dynamic industries.”
Other targeted programs
Gov. Jay Nixon announced that a group of Missouri community colleges, led by St. Louis Community College, will receive nearly $15 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to launch MoManufacturingWINS, which will help students earn certificates recognized and endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers.