January 29, 2019 2 min read

Fast Track bill to help nontraditional students get degrees in high-demand fields

Missouri is home to more than 2.6 million adults without a postsecondary degree. Research shows that workers in this demographic have the potential, with additional education and training, to make a significant impact on the strength of Missouri’s workforce.

On Jan. 28, the Workforce Development Committee heard a bill that would create a grant program funding the postsecondary education of eligible nontraditional college students at an approved Missouri institution of their choice.

House Bill 225, proposed by Rep. Kathy Swan (R-Cape Girardeau), would implement the Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant. Missouri Fast Track is part of the initiative led by Governor Parson and the Missouri Department of Higher Education’s Talent for Tomorrow initiative.

To be eligible for a grant, a student would need to be a Missouri resident with an income of less than $80,000 who is at least 25 years old and has not been enrolled in an education program for the two prior academic years.

“The appropriation request included in the Governor’s budget recommendations was $22 million,” said Rep. Swan. “This dollar amount could impact 16,000 eligible students — providing them training, meeting specific workforce needs, improving the economy and benefitting Missourians in all regions of our state.”

Upskilling Missouri workers is a key priority of the Missouri Chamber.

“One of the most frequent comments we hear from employers is that they have available jobs but cannot find workers with the skills to fill them,” said Matt Panik, the Missouri Chamber’s vice president of governmental affairs. “Unemployment rates are at historic lows, but we still have many technical and skilled jobs open. Fast Track will help fill that gap.”

The legislation is a recommended action item in the Missouri Chamber’s Workforce2030 Report, a part of its 15-year Missouri 2030 strategic initiative to make our state a global economic leader by the year 2030.

“According to the report, upskilling efforts targeted at those adults could have a significant impact on the quantity and quality of the state’s workforce,” said Karen Buschmann, Missouri Chamber vice president of communications. “Specifically, the report recommends providing more opportunities for stackable credentials, using shorter-term training models and making education and skill attainment programs more accessible and affordable for adult workers, especially in high-demand fields.”

HB 225’s mirror bill in the Senate is SB 16 sponsored by Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington), which is scheduled to be heard in committee on Jan. 29.

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