Rusty Sullivan, former director of Metropolitan Community College’s Public Safety Institute and a skydiver, beekeeper and welder in his spare time, has been named director of career programs. He started in his new role Nov. 1.
Sullivan started at MCC in 2001 as a part-time fire academy instructor. He went full time, as fire science technology coordinator, around 2007. He became director of the Public Safety Institute at MCC-Blue River in 2015.
As director of career programs, he will help develop new career and technical education (CTE) programs “to stay on the cutting edge and keep up with workforce needs here and across the United States.” He’ll also work with MCC program coordinators to make sure accreditation standards are met and with the advisory boards of the CTE programs.
“Right now the United States is in a workforce crisis,” Sullivan says. The Department of Labor projects that by 2025, the country will see $2.5 trillion in lost productivity, “so our mission here in workforce development is to try to offset that as much as we can.”
Much of that workforce will be coming from high schools, so “one of my jobs is to create relationships, connections and pathways for these high school students coming up.”
Part of the challenge is to help students understand that today’s career programs are different from the ones that were available to their parents. “We’re talking about high-tech, high pay jobs,” Sullivan says, “and students can easily come out of high school, go through one of our programs and make $50,000 right out of class.”
He mentions that electrical linemen working in disaster areas like California are making $110 an hour.
“There’s a mindset in the United States that if your kid doesn’t go to a four-year college, they’re not successful,” Sullivan says. “We need to get the message out that these are honorable, good jobs — high-paying, high-skill jobs.
“It’s not like in 1970 — either you’re ‘college material’ or you’re not.” If you weren’t, you were likely sent to a vo-tech school.
Sullivan is a district employee whose office is currently at the Business & Technology campus.
After hours, he enjoys at least four off-the-beaten path hobbies:
Skydiving: He did some of that in the U.S. Navy. He’s also a skydiving coach and a wingsuit pilot.
Beekeeping: “You know, beekeeping looked cool, so I did it.” Has he been stung? “Tons of times! You just smear honey on it and it goes away.”
Blacksmithing: He was a welder in the Navy. “I’ve just always kind of been into that world,” and he’s using that skill to make all of his Christmas presents. They tend to be artsy — like metal candle holders, flags and flowers — although he has also made knives and barbecue tools.
Jujitsu: He holds a black belt.
“As soon as I get an idea to do something, I just do it,” Sullivan says. “I don’t get all wrapped around the axles of should I or should I not.”
Sullivan worked for the Grandview Fire Department for 28 years, retiring as a captain. His public safety experience also includes 15 years as a part-time reserve police officer with the Belton Police Department.
He has also served as an instructor for the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) organization, fire science technology chair for the Missouri Community College Association, and a Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training subject matter expert in tactical communications.
He is secretary of MCCA’s Technical Education Committee and a member of the National Association of Career and Technical Instructors, Missouri Council of Career and Technical Administrators, Association for Career and Technical Education, and Missouri Association for Career and Technical Education.
Sullivan holds an associate degree in criminal justice from MCC, a bachelor’s in social psychology (public safety emphasis) from Ottawa University, and a master’s in conflict management and dispute resolution/analysis from Baker University.