February 3, 2022 3 min read

Missouri House committees get down to business on workforce

Amid a labor shortage exacerbated by the pandemic, Missouri House committees are working quickly to make progress on policies that will help educate and train Missouri workers for in-demand jobs.

This week, the Missouri Chamber testified in favor of three bills discussed.

House Bill 2171 sponsored by Rep. Rick Francis, a Republican from Perryville, would encourage schools to help students to develop an individual career/academic plan and require students to complete the FAFSA before graduation. It would also require career tech education centers to help students complete an application for federal workforce development training financial assistance.

“Many families may simply believe or guess that they cannot afford a technical school, a junior college, a four-year university, simply because they just don’t think they can afford to. Maybe they’re right; maybe they would be very surprised,” Rep. Francis said at the bill’s hearing.

Missouri Chamber Vice President of Governmental Affairs Kara Corches said this legislation would increase awareness of financial aid and postsecondary education opportunities.

“We support an all-of-the-above approach to workforce development and workforce training. There is not a single golden ticket that’s going to address all of our workforce problems. It’s going to take a multitude of options, and this bill is a great tool for training students early on for high-demand careers,” said Corches.

Another bill — House Bill 1856 by Rep. Ben Baker, a Republican from Neosho — would allow students to earn high school credit for participating in on-the-job learning opportunities like apprenticeships and internships.

Rep. Travis Fitzwater, a Republican from Holts Summit and a longtime champion of computer science education, also had a bill heard. House Bill 2202 would require all public high schools to offer some form of computer science class, whether in-person or online. It also would allow high school students to use computer science credit toward graduation requirements and be equivalent to science or practical arts credit for satisfying public higher education institution admission requirements.

These policies would encourage more students to take computer science courses, a vital skillset needed for many technology jobs.

The Missouri Chamber’s recently updated Technology2030 Report revealed the need for a stronger focus on computer science education. With Missouri’s technology and innovation economy ranking our state in the top ten for tech job growth, the demand for technology workers is on the rise.

Corches, who also heads up the Missouri Technology Alliance, spoke in support of the bill.

“We’re hoping to do everything we can to not just secure these rankings, but even to continue to rise in those rankings and continue to attract and build tech talent,” said Corches. “And technology is not limited to the technology industry, every industry is in technology. Just last week, I had a grocery store tell me, ‘We’re actually a technology company that just happens to sell groceries’. So every company needs this talent, and we think that the earlier we can expose and train students in computer science, the more we are building a workforce that is prepared to meet the job demands of today and in the future.”

The Missouri Technology Alliance is a coalition of businesses, organizations and education institutions led by the Missouri Chamber with the goal of creating a booming economic environment for the tech and innovation industry through our renowned research and a strong advocacy team in the Capitol. Its concentrated efforts to brand Missouri as a leading state for tech and innovation is helping retain technology businesses, attract new ones and build a workforce ready to excel in both software and hardware-focused tech jobs. Learn more at mocahmber.dreamhosters.com/tech-alliance or contact Corches at kcorches@mochamber.com or (573) 634-3511.

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