Missouri had a wake-up call in 2015 when the Missouri 2030 Gallup survey showed that only 44 percent of the state’s business leaders were satisfied with the availability of skilled workers. Since then, the Missouri Chamber has been leading the charge to bring new workforce programs to the state while also working to align Missouri’s education efforts with employer needs. This year the Missouri General Assembly remained committed to education by fully funding the K-12 foundation formula and providing stable funding for higher education.
Lawmakers also worked on several proposals this year that were inspired by the Workforce2030 Report released by the Missouri Chamber Foundation in 2018. Workforce2030 recommended making Missouri’s workforce training programs more accessible for employers. The report included this telling quote from an employer in the state: “I know there must be lots of workforce programs, but we have never used them. Nobody has the time to figure them all out. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
The Missouri General Assembly changed that by passing a bill to establish the One Start program. Under One Start, Missouri’s job training programs will have increased flexibility and be easier for employers to use. The funding for the programs will be performance-based and contain new claw back provisions to protect taxpayers. The law also ensures more funding is going directly into job training.
Another newly-passed proposal gives the state’s job training efforts a significant boost by providing financial aid for adult learners who want to pursue education and training for high demand industries. This legislation, called Fast Track, will empower thousands of Missourians to equip themselves with the skills most needed by today’s employers. Both One Start and Fast Track were included in Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Hough, a Republican from Springfield.
State budget leaders Rep. Cody Smith and Sen. Dan Hegeman also prioritized workforce this year by including a new $450,000 appropriation in the state budget to train Missouri educators to teach computer science courses. This funding is needed as the state anticipates strong tech industry growth in coming years. The Technology 2030 report recently released by the Missouri Chamber Foundation projects Missouri will soon be a top 10 state for technology industry growth.
The legislature also passed House Bill 604 to boost awareness of in-demand careers by incentivizing teacher externships. In order to advance on their salary schedule, Missouri teachers currently must spend their summers taking graduate classes. This measure gives them the option to spend those hours in an externship for equivalent credit, allowing them to work inside local companies and take that experience back to their classrooms. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Mike Henderson, a Republican from Bonne Terre.
“Missouri 2030 provided a mandate to our chamber and state government to focus on improving our workforce. The progress made this session will make a difference both in the short and long term,” said Mehan. “This year’s legislation will make it much easier for growing businesses to find the workforce they need to expand in Missouri. At the same time, the newly passed bills help realign our education system and set in motion positive changes that will pay off in the years and decades to come.”