Despite high unemployment numbers during the pandemic, many Missouri employers still lack candidates with the right skills. As our state seeks to grow its economy and recover from the impacts of COVID-19, workers who find themselves unemployed or underemployed need upskilling and re-skilling opportunities.
For many, apprenticeship can be the answer. This valuable career training pathway is ideal for individuals who may not be able to go to school full time, or have a family and need to earn an income while obtaining their training. Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job experience with classroom instruction to prepare workers for highly-skilled careers.
Although apprenticeships are commonly associated with skilled trades like construction, today’s apprenticeships exist in nearly every industry — including information technology, manufacturing, health care and energy.
A bill under consideration in the Missouri Senate would align Missouri’s 529 college savings plan rules with a federal law that was recently changed to allow these accounts to pay for apprenticeships and student loans. Senate Bill 152 is sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins, a Republican from Warrensburg.
The Missouri Chamber strongly supports this bill as it will enable more Missourians to access apprenticeships, which are vital opportunities for getting people back to work and recovering strong from the pandemic.
Missouri has been leading the nation in apprenticeships — we rank second nationally in new apprentices and in apprenticeship completions. In addition, the Missouri Chamber was recently awarded a $6 million grant from the federal Department of Labor to expand tech apprenticeships across our state. These apprenticeships will address critical needs in computer programming, network support, cybersecurity and other shortage areas.
The Missouri Chamber also partnered with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development to create Missouri Apprentice Connect, a web portal to connect apprenticeship-seekers with registered apprenticeship program opportunities.
Continuing to bolster Missouri’s apprenticeship career pathways with legislation like SB 152 is a significant step we can take to grow and upskill our workforce.
SB 152 was perfected in the Senate this week and awaits one final vote before it can progress to the House.