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Incentivizing businesses and teachers to participate in externships

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Before Rep. Brenda Shields became an educator, she worked in the manufacturing industry.

“The first 17 years of my adult work life were spent with the Quaker Oats company in St. Joseph, Missouri, as a logistics specialist. It was a wonderful experience and exposed me to all the jobs and trades in a modern manufacturing facility — jobs that even though I was a business and logistics major in college, I didn’t know existed,” Shields said.

When she later became an educator, she said she was able to use that experience to help educate her students and their parents about the job and career opportunities available in the vast range of industries in Missouri today.

Now, she wants to help give other Missouri teachers that same experience by providing incentives to educators and businesses for participating in externships.

Similar to a student internship, externships provide opportunities for educators to learn and work inside Missouri companies. But currently, Missouri disincentivizes externships by requiring many teachers to spend their summers taking graduate education classes in order to advance on the salary schedule.

Shield’s House Bill 462 would give teachers equivalent credit on the salary schedule for spending those hours in an externship. It would also encourage businesses to participate by offering a 50 percent tax credit to offset costs.

“The program will have teachers spending several weeks in a business understanding the jobs, working the jobs, and learning the necessary credentials to perform the job,” said Shields.

This concept is a recommendation cited in Workforce2030, a report commissioned by the Missouri Chamber Foundation. The report revealed that educators and counselors have little exposure to or knowledge of career opportunities outside of those requiring a four-year degree. This leaves significant shortages in areas of advanced manufacturing, health care and many technological positions.

“This bill addresses the skills gap issue by bringing a lot of the practical experience into the classroom and the high school setting so students can begin to consider careers that are in high demand and jobs that we need to fill,” said Matt Panik, the Missouri Chamber’s vice president of governmental affairs. “Giving teachers the ability to impart that wisdom in the classroom is absolutely critical to what we’re trying to do at the Missouri Chamber.”

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