This story was featured in the Summer 2023 issue of Missouri Business magazine.
A few years ago, Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted had a seed of an idea.
“It was an idea that I had based on conversations with businesses around the state. Most of them talked about how they couldn’t find enough employees, that a lot of times due to technology upgrades, they had a tough time upskilling their employees,” Husted said. “If you really think about it, your future workforce is your current workforce. We needed a structure to create a culture of lifelong learning.”
From that notion, TechCred was born.
TechCred is a program that reimburses Ohio employers when they help their workers earn new skills through a technology-focused credential. Hundreds of credentials are included, ranging from Java programming to laser welding. These certificates or certifications take a year or less to complete, and many of the trainings can be completed online.
“We wanted our businesses to have the employees they needed to grow,” said Husted.
Since TechCred’s inception in 2019, more than 2,200 employers have been approved for funding, supporting the earning of more than 70,000 new credentials by employees. Businesses that have taken advantage of the program range from large, global corporations to medium- and small-sized shops. Husted said the manufacturing sector has been the most aggressive about using the TechCred program.
“It’s been one of our most popular programs,” Husted said. “You buy a new piece of machinery or equipment, you’ve got to train your staff on it, right? This helps pay for the training of that staff, and it’s worked really well.”
Now, Missouri employers will have an opportunity to do the same.
This spring, the Missouri General Assembly passed House Bill 417, which creates a short-term upskill credential program, similar to TechCred. The competitive grant program will reimburse employers who help their employees earn short-term certificates or credentials in vital areas for Missouri’s economy, such as cybersecurity, welding, HVAC repair, nursing and manufacturing technology.
Passing House Bill 417, sponsored by Rep. Mike Henderson (R-Bonne Terre) and Sen. Karla Eslinger (R-Wasola), was a top priority of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, because it will support Missouri employers in the global competition for jobs and talent.
“Each year, the Missouri Chamber polls CEOs and business leaders, and workforce remains the most pressing concern of Missouri employers. This year, 38 percent said it was their top concern,” said Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber. “Ramping up programs that can quickly and efficiently train workers for high-demand fields is a must. This will provide Missouri employers with another tool in their toolbox to do just that.”
Through the program, Missouri employers can be awarded up to $2,000 per credential and up to $30,000 per year. It also reserves a third of the funding for small businesses and another third for medium-sized businesses. Employers will have skin in the game, too – their percentage of financial match is one of the competitive criteria in the grant application.
Missouri’s upskill credential program is subject to appropriations, and the Missouri Chamber will be advocating for funding in the 2024 state budget.
Aside from Ohio, there are several other proven examples of the program’s success throughout the country. Colorado, Alaska, Utah and Virginia all have some iteration of a grant program to help employers upskill their employees.
For Lt. Gov. Husted, seeing these programs spread to new states, such as Missouri, is proof that the traditional view of education is changing.
“I think it’s great because this is where America needs to go,” Husted said. “We have a declining demographic population in the working-age workforce, people between 25-60, and that’s particularly true in states like Missouri and Ohio. That means that we have to be better at this and create this culture of lifelong learning. It’s good for everybody.”
Husted’s advice for Missouri employers is simple: Take advantage of the opportunity.
“I think the employers of Missouri are going to find this to be a very popular program,” Husted said. “Use it, because it works.”