SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) is less than a year away from opening its Plaster Manufacturing Center. The project is a $40 million investment from the college. The money comes via donations, state funding and institutional money.

OTC’s Executive Dean of Career, Technical, and Community Development, Dr. Matt Hudson says once the building is complete, it will benefit Springfield’s economy.

“This is a game changer for the Ozarks,” Dr. Hudson said. “A person who is looking to either create or build a business or to relocate or expand their current operations are always looking for a workforce that’s ready. This building allows us to train that workforce. So when a company is looking at Springfield, Missouri, to locate their facility or function, they can come to us. It is a boom for economic development in the southwest Missouri area.”

The Plaster Manufacturing Center will allow OTC to put all of its manufacturing programs in one building. It will serve as a regional hub for training. Students will also learn about advanced manufacturing and technology.

“It’s the first of its kind in Missouri, and really in the area,” Dr. Hudson said. “It will also introduce some new programs.”

Some new programs include automation and robotics, as well as cybersecurity.

The center is 120,000 square feet. Executive Director of the project Robert Randolph says the center will create more lab space for students.

“It represents bringing together industry, higher education and workforce training all into one facility,” Randolph said. “It’s a transformative project, and there are some key unique features about the center that make it stand out.”

One feature is a high bay manufacturing space, where students will be able to work in a 30,000 square-foot replica of a factory floor.

Randolph says the space will create an opportunity for students in different programs to work together.

“We’ve got some new classes in development working on collaborative projects where a welding student will work together with a drafting and design student and a machining student to produce a project,” Randolph said. “It’s kind of like a capstone course. It exposes our students to the cross-disciplinary nature of working in teams in the real work environment.”

Randolph says this is an experience employers are looking for.

“Employers are constantly telling us they need employees both with skills training as well as soft skills or employability training,” Randolph said. “We hear that students need to be able to communicate. These collaborative projects are being implemented in order to introduce that communication skill in a cross-disciplinary manner.”

OTC is more than eight months into this construction project, and it has about ten months to go. The center should be ready to open by the Fall 2022 semester.