OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A Space for All STEM Fest at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) this weekend is giving local students a chance to explore a potential career in engineering and math fields.
It’s also showing how Panasonic is working with local community college and universities to create the workforce it will need for it’s $4 billion electric vehicle battery plant in De Soto.
“It’s really going to take the whole area,” said Panasonic Vice President of Human Resources Kristen Walters. “We’ve got great partnerships not only with JCCC but with KCK Community College, with the other universities across Kansas so it’s going to be really important that we partner across the area.”
Last year, FOX4 found out how Panasonic worked with community colleges near its Gigafactory facility in Reno, Nevada to also train up local workers. Panasonic helped design the curriculum so that workers could go to school for a few months and quickly get jobs at the facility nearby.
Those programs allow entry-level workers to get industry certifications just to get started. Additional training, certifications, and degrees can then be stacked on top of those initial qualifications, helping workers unlock more advanced positions and higher wages.
JCCC President Dr. Andy Bowne says that kind of planning is already happening in Johnson County,
“We do a great deal of what they call non-credit training so these don’t lead to degrees but they do lead to industry certifications that allow folks to take those skills and pretty quickly get into the workplace,” Bowne said.
Panasonic’s massive investment in De Soto makes the scaled up programs possible but Walters says it isn’t the only company that will benefit.
“Thinking about how can we bring people in and accelerate their development to be able to contribute to the business and come in as an advanced technician, building skills in maintenance and automation, so it’s been super important to partner with them so people can have career pathways and really have a career with Panasonic,” Walters said.
The plant broke ground roughly a year ago and is expected to be operational in early 2025.