Hutchinson Community College’s mission to provide access has benefitted more than their students’ resumes.

The college gives industries and businesses a boost by resources to train almost anyone, from high school students to long-time employees. This training is necessary to maintain industry in McPherson today, as well as in the future.

“We are a manufacturing center, maybe one of the most advanced in Kansas, and there’s some problems that go with that,” said McPherson Mayor Tom Brown. “We’re breaking ground to build all these new expansions, but we need places like HCC to train up people so they’re ready when those plants open. Technology is changing all the time, and people need to upgrade their education. If we don’t, we’ll be outdated and have to move on. We’re doing everything we can to help community workers stay abreast of what they need to do tomorrow, not just what they’re doing today.”

HCC representatives presented information about the college at Monday’s McPherson City Commission meeting.

Dave Mullins, director of business and industry training, facilitates training for area businesses, as well as recruiting potential workers.

“We are there to partner with businesses to offer training in non-traditional ways,” Mullins said. “We have several faculty who don’t work the traditional 8-to-4 class schedule so they can offer classes when the businesses need them.”

HCC trained employees at numerous McPherson businesses in skills like basic manufacturing or continuing education for contractors.

“Our new thing with Viega is an apprenticeship. They are hiring folks to work 30 hours a week and they’re paid $15 an hour, eligible for benefits, and pursuing an associates degree that they can complete within three years,” Mullins said. “That’s a great opportunity. They have five who started this spring and they hope to have 10 by next year. It’s a great opportunity for students because the company is in a situation where they need to grow their own because there aren’t people just standing around ready to take these jobs.

Back in the classroom, the number of students pursuing technical careers is increasing.

“We have two curricular paths, general education and transfer or a technical education. Our career and technical education path accounts for 30-50 percent of our enrollment every year,” said Carter File, president of HCC.

The reason why HCC partners with businesses and school districts, in addition to their regular classroom and online learning, is so students can keep college an option.

“The overarching mission has always been access. We have an open door policy, we’re the institution that takes everybody. Many institutions talk about how they only take the top 5 or 10 percent of a graduating class, but we take 100 percent. It’s in our DNA and it’s part of our mission,” File said. “Our outreach center in McPherson is also an important part of that access.”

For the future, File plans to use that access to push for higher completion rates.

“For our next five years, our strategic planning initiative focuses on PERC, which stands for persistent enrollment retention and completion. That’s important for our learning process because if we don’t retain students, they can’t learn,” File said. “Community colleges are learning that just getting students in the door isn’t enough — we need them to complete their programs. The problem is, we’re taking students who are less prepared for the rigors of college life and that creates some new challenges.”

Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at cderksen@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.