Like a jet aircraft, O’Fallon businesses and industries are on the rise, giving skilled talent great choices when it comes to starting or growing a career.
The average income in O’Fallon is $81,000 and higher than the national average, yet housing still remains affordable while quality of life assets include top schools, low commute times and plenty of parks and greenways. The local economy is strong in education, finance, government, health care, information technology (IT) and manufacturing, and major employers in the region include Allianz, CitiMortgage, General Motors Corp., Mastercard, Progress West Hospital, True Manufacturing and Webster University WingHaven.
Two especially strong sectors are health care and manufacturing, but more people are needed to work in both sectors. For health care, St. Charles County has four top hospitals, along with more than 30 health and wellness operations, and many are seeking additional employees. In manufacturing, its successful history has long contributed to the economy of O’Fallon, and area leaders are looking to do even more.
That’s why a Grow Manufacturing St. Charles County initiative has begun to help develop manpower for the precision machine products industry and associated businesses. More millennials are needed to enter the manufacturing market to replace baby boomers nearing retirement age.
“We want to change the perception of manufacturing,” says Erin Williams, president and CEO of the O’Fallon Chamber of Commerce & Industries. “It’s not a dirty factory industry anymore. Everything these days in manufacturing is so technological, skilled and clean. Computer-operated machines, precise welding and electrical components are so advanced, with starting salaries of around $40,000 a year – or more.”
Williams adds that many of today’s skilled trade jobs require only one to two years of training.
“The old idea that you must attend four years of college to be successful is not true anymore,” she says. “Many new hires in manufacturing have full benefits, no college debt and are doing very well, plus the job search time is minimal in manufacturing compared to other careers.”
Enrolling at Ranken Wentzville
One of the many assets that St. Charles County has to prepare students in technical fields is Ranken Technical College-Wentzville, which offers hands-on technical training and general education courses.
“We also teach work ethic to our students, and students receive a work ethic rating at the end of every semester,” says Jeremy Sutton, site director at Ranken Technical College-Wentzville. “Our students are required to wear a uniform, be at class every day, be on time, and meet professionalism standards while they are here. We prepare them as much as possible for the workforce.”
The Ranken Wentzville campus offers seven technical programs: advanced manufacturing, application and web development, automotive maintenance, building systems engineering, diesel technology, electrical automation technology, and network systems. Area companies that have hired Ranken Wentzville graduates include Coca-Cola, Clark Power, Frank Leta Honda, Firestone, General Motors, Mid-America Peterbilt and Pappas Toyota.
“Programs take about 17 months to complete on average, and our current enrollment features 21 percent of our students who live in O’Fallon,” Sutton says.
Another company that often hires Ranken Wentzville grads is Component Bar Products (CBP), a contract manufacturing machine shop that has operated in O’Fallon since 1997.
“We produce high-quality, high-precision products and currently deliver in excess of 3 million pieces per month to support the needs of our customers in the HVAC, automotive and defense industries,” says Darrel Keesling, president and CEO of Component Bar Products. “Our year-over-year growth exceeded 20 percent in 2017.”
To support that growth, CBF is active within the greater O’Fallon community to trumpet the new message of manufacturing. For example, the company supports an annual Manufacturing Day that highlights manufacturing careers to middle and high school students, and CBF also offers certificate programs for welding and certified production technicians at St. Charles Community College.
“We also sponsor a robotics team at one of O’Fallon’s high schools,” Keesling says. “Component Bar Products currently has positions open in our production, machine maintenance, tooling and shipping departments, and we offer great benefits including medical insurance and a matching 401(k) program.”