Missouri Business Headlines

House proposal: Getting high school students certified for technical jobs

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State lawmakers are working to find ways to bolster the technical education available at Missouri high schools.

One idea under consideration involves creating a new technical education certificate that high school students could earn alongside their diploma.

Rep. Kathy Swan

Rep. Kathy Swan

A Missouri House committee heard testimony on this idea, contained in House Bill 1612, during a hearing on Jan. 19.

“Missouri needs to do more to develop the technical skills of the workforce,” said the bill sponsor, Rep. Kathy Swan, a Republican from Cape Girardeau.

The bill would require state education leaders establish requirements students would have to meet to earn a technical education certificate. Under the bill, local school districts would have the freedom to make curriculum decisions, identify programs of study and choose specific course offerings.

During the House committee hearing, a lobbyist representing Microsoft said his company often has to look outside the United States to fill hundreds of job openings. The company supports Missouri’s technical education certificate proposal as a way to create more qualified job applicants domestically.

If the bill becomes law, freshmen entering high school during the 2017-2018 school year would become the first class eligible to complete the requirements and receive a technical education certificate.

A lobbyist for the Fenton-based JG Foundation said the technical education certificate program would help students improve their chances of getting good jobs.

Sen. Gary Romine

Sen. Gary Romine

“This bill offers alternative and it returns the dignity to following a vocation rather than continuing directly to college,” said Elizabeth Lauber.

The Senate Education Committee is also considering a similar proposal sponsored by Sen. Gary Romine, a Republican from Farmington. That bill is Senate Bill 620.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports these proposals as they would help address the business community’s concerns about high school students being prepared for the workforce. A group of business leaders recently told a Missouri House committee that the state needs a greater focus on technical education.

In addition, the Missouri 2030 Gallup survey of Missouri businesses found that only 15 percent of business leaders believe Missouri high school graduates are prepared for the workforce. This concern led to workforce preparedness being named a key driver of the Missouri Chamber’s Missouri 2030 plan.

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