JCCC wants to help teach trade skills to future Panasonic workers — Here’s what we know

Johnson County Community College says already existing workforce training programs, like an Automation Engineer Technology course pictured above, could be used to help train workers at the future Panasonic electric vehicle battery plant being planned for De Soto. File photo.

The incoming Panasonic battery plant is expected to grow Johnson County’s workforce. In turn, it may bring a rise in demand for the trade skills that Johnson County Community College offers.

What’s going on? JCCC officials said the college is prepared to train future Panasonic workers in the skills they’ll need to help operate the prospective $4 billion factory on part of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant in De Soto.

  • The college is in the early stages of forming what it calls a regional collaboration with other local entities to offer training for the future factory’s employees.

Why it matters: The Japanese manufacturing giant is expected to bring 4,000 new jobs to De Soto, though those jobs are not guaranteed by the deal struck with the state, according to a report this week by the Kansas City Star.

  • Still, state and local elected officials are voicing confidence the company will come through with its commitment and the local workforce will grow.
  • Before the plant is up and running, Gov. Laura Kelly’s office also estimated that construction alone would also result in 16,500 new jobs.

How would it work? Elisa Waldman, JCCC’s vice president of workforce development and continuing education, said the college’s training would primarily come from the its already existing workforce training programs.

  • Those include programs in industrial maintenance, facilities maintenance, electronic technology and supply chain logistics.
  • Waldman said that within the past year, more than 16,000 students enrolled in these types of programs at JCCC.

Working with businesses: JCCC also offers customized training, where the college works with companies to provide the specific training their employees need.

  • Waldman said JCCC and Panasonic have not agreed to anything specific like that yet, but the college has provided this type of program in the past for businesses such as local hospitals, insurance companies and school districts.
  • “We do a needs assessment with a specific company and they might come to us and say, ‘We need training in equipment operators, or we need our IT staff to learn a new code, whatever it might be,” Waldman said. “Then we set up the training we customize it and set it up specifically for that company.”