Missouri’s Springboard for Success: Tools for Growing our Workforce

Release Date: 04/14/2014
Contact: Amy Susan,  (573) 522-5058

Missouri's Springboard for Success, tools for growing our workforce

Although spring may have just sprung across the nation, Missouri has been very busy all year long providing a springboard for success for our students and businesses! The state has numerous resources and tools to help our students, entrepreneurs and business leaders work together to strengthen our workforce and grow our economy.

In 2010, in an effort to pinpoint those areas that could further enhance our economy, Gov. Jay Nixon launched a strategic planning process to make a comprehensive assessment of Missouri’s strengths, assets, and opportunities for growth. The final results of this collaborative effort, known as the Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth, found that Missouri’s strongest possibilities for job creation and economic growth lie in seven particular areas: Advanced Manufacturing, Energy Solutions, Biosciences, Health Sciences and Services, Information Technology, Financial and Professional Services, and Transportation and Logistics.

Missouri’s numerous and diverse tools for growing the workforce are the perfect springboard to further advance these seven clusters, as well as continue to propel the state’s economy forward. The state is already ahead of the pack in several of these clusters, particularly in the biosciences industry.  St. Louis currently boasts the highest concentration of plant scientists in the world, and Kansas City’s Animal Health Corridor is the national leader for this industry, with the region accounting for nearly one-third of total sales in the global animal health market.

A strong, highly-skilled, educated workforce is the foundation for a growing, prosperous economy.  In an effort to prepare Missouri’s next generation to meet this demand for highly-skilled workers, Gov. Nixon recently launched the Missouri Start Smart Initiative.   Announced in 2013, this initiative expands access to quality early childhood education opportunities throughout the state, ensuring that Missouri children start kindergarten ready to succeed in school and beyond, ultimately contributing to the state’s thriving workforce.

Gov. Nixon’s “Good Schools, Good Jobs” plan is another way that Missouri is ensuring that its students are prepared to compete for the jobs of the future. The plan calls for an increase in funding for the state’s K-12 classrooms, allowing Missouri’s numerous school districts to provide the resources needed to succeed, including expanding access to early childhood education and improving technology in the classroom. This emphasis on education has already paid dividends for Missouri’s students and economic future, as Missouri currently boasts the 8th highest high school graduation rate in the nation.

Missouri is also home to eight public schools that were designated as 2013 national Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. The national award, given only to 286 schools nationwide last year, honors schools whose students achieve at very high levels or who have made significant progress to close gaps in achievement.  Missouri’s 2013 Blue Ribbon Schools are: Brentwood High School, Lee’s Summit West High School, Nixa High School, Bolivar High School, Sappington Elementary School, Spokane High School, Willow Springs High School, W.W. Keysor Elementary School and Messiah Lutheran.

Colleges and universities in Missouri are also playing a huge part in spring boarding students to success. Under the Governor’s leadership and efforts to freeze tuition, Missouri has led the nation in minimizing tuition increases at its public universities, making the state a leader in college affordability.  Additionally, over 99 percent of the state’s public high schools now offer students the opportunity to earn an A+ scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition and academic fees for two years at any public two-year community college or technical school in the state.

Missouri is also supporting careers in its targeted industry clusters through the Missouri Innovation Campus initiative.  Launched at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) in Warrensburg in 2012, the initiative is a groundbreaking, Presidentially-recognized approach to college education.  The plan facilitates partnerships between Missouri four-year universities, public community colleges, and area high schools, allowing students the opportunity to earn college credits equal to an associate degree while still in high school.  Ultimately, the program cuts the time it takes to earn a college degree and reduces student debt while training students for career opportunities in high-demand fields. There are currently Innovation Campus programs underway in Warrensburg, Joplin, St. Joseph, Springfield, St. Louis, Jefferson City, St. Charles, Cape Girardeau and Rolla.

Missouri’s institutions of higher education are recognizably top-notch, producing educated workers that have the skills needed to succeed and grow Missouri’s economy.  In fact, Linn State Technical College in Linn was recently ranked as the 6th best community college in the United States by Bankrate.  Washington University in St. Louis has also received praise recently, earning recognition by The Princeton Review as the 8th best school for entrepreneurship undergraduate programs, as well as the designation as the 4th best undergraduate business school by Bloomberg Businessweek. The University of Missouri in Columbia and Truman State University in Kirksville have also received their fair share of recognition, with MU earning the designation as the No. 1 journalism school in the country by NewsPro magazine, and Truman being recognized as the No. 8 best value school in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.  This is just a snapshot of the national attention that higher education institutions around the state have earned recently.

In addition to our numerous educational initiatives designed to grow and improve the workforce, Missouri’s springboard for success also includes numerous resources available for jobseekers throughout the state.  Missouri Career Centers work with local businesses and educational institutions to help align the workforce to meet future needs.  The 32 career centers throughout the state work with the emerging and transitional workforce by offering services ranging from personalized job search assistance to resume building tools to locating eligible training programs. Another important workforce resource in Missouri is jobs.mo.gov, the state's number one jobs bank, featuring thousands of jobs every day.

Missouri is also actively involved in Certified Work Ready Communities, a voluntary initiative led by community leaders that aligns the economic development needs of communities in order to strengthen and grow business.  The initiative uses the ACT’s (American College Testing) National Career Readiness Certificate as a skill assessment on a county-by-county basis to help communities qualify their available workforce and build a talent pipeline ready to serve existing employers and attract new business.  In March 2013, Jasper County became the first Certified Work Ready Community in the nation, and in January 2014 the counties of Franklin, Ripley, and Butler were also fully certified. Missouri currently has four out of the first five counties in the nation to receive this designation, and also has 35 counties currently in progress towards certification.

Another resource available to job seekers and employers in Missouri is the Employment Transition Team (ETT). In the event of a pending layoff, this specialized team can assist affected employees with reemployment services and connect them with current job openings.

The state also offers several programs designed to help Missouri’s youth obtain employment and showcase their workforce skills. One such program is the State Park Youth Corps (SPYC), a nationally-recognized jobs initiative for young adults.  Launched by Gov. Nixon in 2010, SPYC provides Missouri youth ages 17-23 with the opportunity to work outdoors improving the state’s state parks and historic sites.  Participation in this program not only gives young Missourians the opportunity to gain valuable work experience to prepare for tomorrow’s careers, but also enhances the beauty and grandeur of Missouri’s state parks, a major tourist attraction.

Missouri is also dedicated to providing a springboard for success for our veterans, which led Gov. Nixon to launch the Show-Me Heroes initiative in January 2010.  Show-Me Heroes helps Missouri Veterans and members of the National Guard & Reserve connect with meaningful careers in Missouri, and also showcases Missouri employers who have pledged to hire veterans throughout the state.  The program includes many resources for both businesses and employees, including an On-the-Job Training component that further incentives Missouri employers to hire our veterans.  Since the inception of the program, thousands of Missouri’s heroes have found rewarding careers.  To date, more than 6,600 veterans have been hired, and we anticipate that number to continue growing!

The state also offers Missouri Works Training to help companies enhance their current and future workforce. Through partnerships with twelve community colleges as well as local educational agencies around the state, Missouri Works Training helps Missouri companies stay competitive by having a highly-trained workforce. The program allows for the flexible use of funds to meet the company’s specific training needs through a variety of training areas, including technical and leadership training, team building, lean manufacturing, international quality standards, and others.

Are you ready to spring for success in Missouri? For more information on all of the programs and initiatives listed above, as well as many others tools for success in Missouri, please visit the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

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