Kansas college receives $500K for industrial maintenance program

Dodge City Community College is the recipient of $500,000 in federal monies that can be used to develop an industrial maintenance program that can help a large new employer and other southwest Kansas companies.

In an announcement made Feb. 20 on the college campus by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS, the new curriculum will be ideal to help Hilmar Cheese but also other companies who will be able to use the program to train future employees. The monies came from a fiscal year 2023 appropriations package.

Clayton Tatro, vice president of workforce development with DCCC, said Cargill and National Beef and other large operations have voiced their support for the program. Tatro said DCCC, which is also securing state funding, will offer the one-year program from fall to spring during the school year. The first class is planned for fall 2024 and it will allow those students to go directly into the workforce after completing the program.

Moran said the program is necessary and fits a need for private industry and leverages it with a public institution. He hopes that story continues to grow not only in western Kansas but throughout the state.

“It has been my belief for many years we have undervalued community colleges and vocational technical college education,” he said.

Before being elected first as congressman in 1996, he served as a state senator from Hays and one of the business development questions he remembers was “how do we get a cheese plant in western Kansas?”

As dairies began to relocate into this region of the state it became more evident that a cheese plant was feasible, but it also requires a trained workforce.

Dodge City, through its network of public and private entities, put together an attractive plan for Hillmar and one of its continuing goals is to also help workers find good jobs.

Gary Harshberger, chairman of the board of trustees, said he and other trustees believe in the importance of having a college that is meeting the needs of students and the community it serves.

The industrial maintenance program “fits the mission.” The trustees and administration will continue to look for ways to continue to develop ties that make good matches for the community and region.

After his public remarks, Moran said the Kansas delegation worked together to secure the funds and it had bipartisan support.

Hilmar was in the news with its groundbreaking last fall as construction continues but many other business people have voiced concerns to Moran about the need to develop a future workforce. Addressing skillsets to match employers with employees is a must along with work ethic, he said, and the new DCCC program will be an important asset to helping both.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].