Senate committee considers Expanded Workforce Access Act
Who would you prefer to provide you with a service — a worker who has been to school in their area of study for a certain number of years, or a worker who is apprenticed and has been working hands-on in that field for the same amount of time?
According to one poll, says Sen. Eric Burlison (R-Republic), 80 percent of the public said they would prefer the apprentice who has been working in their field and gaining real world experience.
Burlison sponsored Senate Bill 318 with that in mind. This legislation creates the Expanded Workforce Access Act, which would enable an applicant with an 8th grade education or higher who has completed a federally approved apprenticeship program and passed any necessary examination to obtain an industry license.
At the bill’s Senate committee hearing on Feb. 25, Burlison said the legislation would help many young and low-income Missourians who want to enter a career but face a costly and time-consuming education hurdle.
“4.9 percent of Missouri’s population does not have a high school diploma or anything beyond, so there’s a lot of people who are in the situation where for them — taking time out of their life and not making an income and going to school — putting that time aside would be impossible,” Burlison said. “This would allow people to step into the career path they want to step into and make a little bit of money while they’re learning a trade.”
Expanding apprenticeship opportunities is one of the recommendations made in the Missouri Chamber Foundation’s Workforce2030 Report, published in 2018. Kara Corches, Missouri Chamber director of legislative affairs, said the bill would help employers close the workforce skills gap and give employees opportunities to access higher-paying jobs.
“Apprenticeships combine paid, on-the-job training with classroom instruction to prepare workers for highly-skilled careers. With the rapidly-changing landscape in our workforce and jobs outlook, the Chamber supports aligning education and skills training with the career pathways available today and into the future,” Corches said. “This bill helps to address the skills gap and it will help Missourians get licenses to work in careers they desire and fill jobs.”
The St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce also testified in support.
“Data shows that 48 percent of job growth in the state of Missouri will require some education beyond high school but not necessarily a four-year degree. So, in order to address that and expedite the process for people being able to find meaningful career opportunities while meeting our job shortages in key industries, apprenticeships are a good tool that really foster employer engagement and training and provides that relevant skillset for folks who need it,” said Greg Laposa, St. Louis Regional Chamber vice president of education strategies.
SB 318 now awaits the committee’s vote. This legislation’s companion bill in the House is HB 470, sponsored by Rep. Derek Grier, which was recently passed out of House Rules committee.