By Jeff Murphy, January 28, 2019
WARRENSBURG, MO – Pending legislative approval, a $55.8 million funding request by the Missouri Coordinating Board of Higher Education (CBHE) will greatly aid the University of Central Missouri’s efforts to meet a statewide need for trained information technology workers.
The funding request for the MoExcels Workforce Initiative was approved in CBHE’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request, which was submitted to the state legislature in January. Its purpose is to provide money to facilitate development and expansion of employer-driven education and training programs and initiatives which significantly increase educational attainment in Missouri.
Within the funding request is $710,000 for UCM (the governor has recommended 95 percent of this sum), which is one of 26 different public institutions of higher education in the state targeted for funding. UCM is included on the basis of a request for proposals which was announced by the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) in fall 2018. The legislature has until May 2019 to decide on the matter, which then must be signed by the governor for final approval.
According to Laurel Hogue, vice provost for extended studies at UCM, MoExcels funds allow the university to develop and deliver a program in information technology that provides stackable, branchable pathways for a variety of learners. UCM will collaborate with business partners to develop a unique curriculum and programming that focuses on the identification of specific competencies and skill sets that are required by employees to be successful both in the workplace and as citizens. UCM’s efforts also address local needs to increase retention and graduation rates, while helping to reduce costs, and develop a trained workforce to serve the state.
"UCM is excited to work cooperatively with our business partners in the Kansas City region and provide more opportunities for adult and traditional students in the area of information technology. We know that there is a workforce need and UCM looks forward to being part of the solution," said Mike Godard, interim provost-chief learning officer.
Hogue said a program goal is to work with companies to identify a set of competencies and specific skill sets that, when achieved, enable the worker to become credentialed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas. Utilizing educational resources available at the Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) in Lee’s Summit, this new pathway will expand efforts in the Kansas City region to educate a skilled workforce that meets employer demands, specifically in information technology.
MoExcels funding will help create a model program that serves high school students and adults returning to school, including military and veteran populations. Course content would be delivered face-to-face, online and through needed lab activities.
Under MoExcels, UCM will provide seven information technology program areas of emphasis that lead to separate industry recognized certifications. These areas are: Networking and Programming Technology, Cybersecurity, Software Engineering, Internet of Things (IoT), Bioinformatics, People and Employability Skills, and Business Skills.
Hogue said that in addition to development of a curriculum for IT-related certifications, MoExcels funding will help UCM further its commitment to the information technology industry through activities that include further development of a Gigibit lab housed at the MIC in collaboration with Kansas City MetroLab. This will allow entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers, educators and students to develop the next generation products and services that take advantage of faster and more reliable networks.
UCM also would integrate technologies such as Internet of Things utilizing Raspberry Pi’s and sensors, and collaborating with the developers of Gigabots to bring real-time Internet connectivity to educational robotics platforms. This will enable students to learn about underlying technologies and applications in order to gain an understanding of new technology.