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STLCC Receives Grants to Enhance GIS Courses

Thursday, March 21, 2024

As St. Louis Community College gets its geographic information systems course offerings off the ground, grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor and the state of Missouri will help the them soar.

STLCC has been awarded more than $1.75 million in funding from both Congress and the state of Missouri to jumpstart the program. Of that total, $1 million comes from the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration FY23 Community Project Funding/Congressionally Directed Spending request sponsored by retired U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. These funds promote economic development, education, health care initiatives, and other worthy investments in communities nationwide. The College also received funds totaling $754,750 from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development’s MoExcels Initiative to develop programs for geospatial-related workforce expansion.

Student flying drone"We're honored to receive substantial federal and state funding to launch geospatial programs at St. Louis Community College,” said Jeff L. Pittman, PhD, STLCC chancellor. “In collaboration with industry partners, STLCC's new curriculum will provide an entry ramp for students to get good jobs, while contributing to the innovation and economic growth in the region. With the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s new facility under construction in North St. Louis, I believe we owe it to our community to provide training that can lead to a job there.”

With these funds, STLCC will focus on geospatial workforce expansion to engage students for STEM occupations, with three new certificates to be used for high-demand employment and as components of a future credit program that leads to an AAS degree or as a pathway to further education.

  • Commercial drone pilot training will include hands-on drone training in a netted structure and classroom instruction. Program completers will receive a certificate and be eligible to take the FAA 107 licensing exam for commercial drone pilot.
  • The Survey Technician program will include classroom and field training using state-of-the art equipment and will result in a Certificate of Specialization.
  • A geographical information systems (GIS) Certificate of Specialization is under development.

These courses will be offered at the Florissant Valley and Wildwood campuses.

“Most education in the geospatial field is offered at four-year institutions for advanced degrees tailored toward the 'geospatial analyst level positions,’” according to Thomas McGovern, academic dean in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics at Florissant Valley who also serves as district dean of engineering. McGovern is the project director for this program.

“By offering curriculum at the associate degree and undergraduate certificate levels, we expect to be able to affect employment for jobs in construction, surveying, and other markets requiring some level of GIS capability,” he said. “I would not be surprised if our students went on to expand their knowledge at the four-year level – once they have become aware of the diverse opportunities that exist in this field.”

A targeted recruitment campaign will prioritize female and Black participants. STLCC staff have identified potential employers and will provide student completers with interview opportunities, as available. A netted structure at both campuses will facilitate safe flight space for drone operators and observers. Curriculum will be developed, other necessary equipment purchased, and faculty trained to teach the classes.  

“These state and federal funds have allowed us to create programming that introduces students to a career field that was previously only encountered during graduate school,” said Stephen White, EdD, Wildwood’s president and campus chief academic officer. “Being able to develop student’s skills in the geospatial realm earlier in their education will advance the employment opportunities for that student.”

There is a lack of certificated training programs to meet workforce demand and to provide a pathway for advancing STEM careers with geospatial information systems (GIS) degrees. A FAA license for commercial drone piloting is a gateway to begin geospatial information and other STEM career tracks. Women represent only 6.7% of drone commercial pilots (FAA, 2019) and are underrepresented in all STEM careers (27%). Black workers represent only 9% of the STEM workforce (U.S. Census 2021).

STEM employment growth is projected to outpace economy-wide employment growth from 2019 to 2029 (9.2% for STEM jobs vs. 3.7% overall, according to research conducted by the PEW Research Center in April 2021).

Find out more information about STLCC’s geospatial technology course offerings.

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