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Workforce2030 highlights the state’s challenges and opportunities

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In the recently concluded 2018 Legislative Session, workforce emerged as a frontline issue. An unprecedented number of workforce-related bills were passed by the Missouri General Assembly. Lawmakers are realizing that the quality of Missouri’s workforce will play a bigger role than nearly any other factor in determining our state’s economic future.

“In today’s fierce competition for jobs, workforce has become the most effective weapon,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “The states and regions that recognize this fact and wisely invest in strategic workforce development and retention initiatives will win the jobs war. Talent is quickly replacing all other incentives for economic development.”

Click here to read the full report.

In an effort to build momentum around workforce development policy, the Missouri Chamber Foundation commissioned a report, Workforce2030, to identify Missouri’s challenges and opportunities in preparing our future workforce to meet employers’ needs. The report includes an analysis of workforce development best practices within the state and from around the nation.

The report is authored by Ted Abernathy and Greg Payne of Economic Leadership, LLC. The authors spoke to business leaders and human resource managers from employers across the state to inform their work. They analyzed innovative workforce development programs across the nation to identify ideas that could be implemented in Missouri.

“While predicting the economic future is difficult, one fact is certain: The most successful businesses that emerge over the coming decades will locate themselves where they have access to a top-quality workforce. We want to make Missouri that place. We believe the recommendations in Workforce2030 will take important steps toward that goal,” Mehan said.


Workforce2030 highlights several workforce challenges facing Missouri. Missouri’s labor force growth has lagged the United States average over the past 40 years. In the last ten years, while U.S labor growth has averaged 6 percent, Missouri’s labor growth has averaged 2.1 percent, and in some years in the last decade has even experienced negative growth.

That’s compounded by a projected imbalance between Missouri’s baby boomers leaving the labor force and the number of younger workers joining the workforce over the next 20 years. Most Missouri 45-54 year-old workers – 1.6 million people – will retire over the next two decades. They will be replaced by 1.4 million new workers under age 18, but only if Missouri can keep those workers as they graduate from high school and college.

Unfortunately, Missouri lags behind other states in retaining young workers. While the U.S. is expecting modest 4.4 percent growth of its young, 25-44 year-old population over the next 10 years, projections show that Missouri will only grow at 2.5 percent in this age group.

“Perhaps the most concerning statistic facing our state is our anemic population growth numbers,” Mehan said. “Missouri will need to take very intentional action to buck that trend. We believe improving our workforce and growing job opportunities is the way we turn that statistic around.”

Like most employers in America, the skills gap is another concern Missouri employers face. The gap exists on several fronts. In some cases, it is a matter of students who are not leaving our education system with the skills they need to enter the workforce. Soft skills, basic knowledge and technology skills are often lacking. In other cases, the problem is centered on adults who have lost their jobs because of factory closings or layoffs and who now must adapt.

“Missouri has more than 2.6 million adults with no post-secondary degree,” said Mehan. “Targeted upskilling efforts to this group could be one way to move the needle for Missouri.”


The news isn’t all bad for Missouri. The state excels in many areas of the new technical economy. For example, in the last ten years computer systems design and related service jobs have grown by 75 percent. Jobs in technical and scientific management have grown by 78 percent.

“Missouri shows strong growth in computer and technical jobs,” said Mehan. “We were pleased to see lawmakers pass computer science-related legislation this last session that will shore up our potential in that area.”

Missouri also leads in graduation attainment and has made significant strides in reducing the need for remediation at the college level.

As the study highlights, Missouri has regions doing innovative work in many workforce areas. At the same time, leadership of the Missouri Department of Economic Development is also looking at ways to reprioritize the way Missouri approaches workforce development.

“We hope that DED will use Workforce2030 as a resource as it undergoes efforts to improve talent improvement, attraction and retention,” Mehan said.


Workforce2030 highlights six areas of focus Missouri should take to strengthen its workforce. The full report provides more than 30 action items that can be taken to achieve these recommendations. Best practices are also highlighted in the full report.

  1. Maximize Business Engagement
    Worker shortages and skills gaps are limiting businesses’ growth. Business leaders know what skills they need and are ready to engage. We should position the business community to lead the transition to a demand-driven workforce.
  2. Focus on Improving Worker Skills
    The imperative to “upskill” current workers and “right skill” those entering the workforce must be a top priority for education and workforce partners.
  3. Prioritize Regional Sector Strategies
    Missouri’s creation of regional, industry-focused sector strategies is off to a good start, but we must meet the challenge of implementation and scale best practices statewide to extend opportunity to all Missourians. Regions — especially those with smaller and more rural communities — need sufficient funding and increased technical assistance.
  4. Increase Career Awareness
    There is a need for increased public awareness of skills gap issues and career opportunities, particularly for students, parents, teachers and counselors.
  5. Attract and Retain More Talent
    Even if Missouri develops the best education and training models in America, we will still need to attract more people to Missouri to fill some high-demand jobs.
  6. Improve Communications for All Stakeholders
    To coalesce public and private urgency and resources around workforce issues, it is essential to provide clear information about current progress and future goals.


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