Sen. Jay Wasson’s Legislative Column for the Week of March 14, 2016

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Promoting Workforce Development in the Show-Me State

Employers across all industries consistently report that a lack of skilled workers is one of the top challenges they face. While Missouri has attempted to adapt to the changing needs of the business community, we continue to lose out on jobs to states that have more aggressive and streamlined economic and workforce development programs. This is no more apparent than when we look at the progress being made in some southern states.

Last summer, I attended a conference in Georgia, and one of the main topics of discussion was workforce training programs. While there, we visited a brand new aircraft maintenance facility in Savannah. The day it opened, 5,000 men and women started working, fully trained and ready to go. The company chose Savannah because of Georgia’s comprehensive job training programs, which had adequately prepared those 5,000 workers. There, right in front of me, was a real-world example of the benefits that come with a robust workforce training program, and it got me thinking about what more we can do in Missouri.

To remain competitive, I believe Missouri needs to do two things in the very near future. First, we must create a state system with a single point of contact for businesses looking to find, hire, train or retain employees in Missouri. Right now, a company looking to do business here must deal with numerous state departments just to figure out what needs to be done and what resources are available. Other states have successfully streamlined this process by moving to a “one stop shop” solution. Instead of many points of contact, one person is assigned to assist each business owner with everything they will need to get up and running, from obtaining permits to applying for tax credits.

Second, we must increase workforce training funding. Currently, Missouri selects a limited number of companies to receive job training funding; unfortunately, accessing these funds can be a confusing and frustrating process, and the amount awarded is often too small to even justify the paperwork. We simply are not investing enough to make any real difference.

Southern states such as Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and North Carolina have already implemented comprehensive job training and economic support programs. They are now leading the nation in new workforce development. More recently, Rust Belt states have begun following suit and are also reaping the rewards. These states are getting a great return on their investment. There is no reason why Missouri can’t do the same, but we must act soon if we don’t want to be left behind.

By restructuring our delivery system, increasing funding, and more effectively collaborating with our robust network of community colleges, career and technical education (CTE) programs, and innovation campuses, Missouri will soon have the type of efficient workforce system the business community desires.

On Wednesday, I presented legislation aimed at jumpstarting this important conversation within the larger statewide community. It is my goal over the coming months to bring together folks from government, area chambers of commerce, community colleges, innovation campuses, CTE, and current and potential business owners to figure out how we can take Missouri’s economic and workforce development programs to the next level and improve processes already in place.

If you have any questions or comments about this or any other matter regarding your state government, please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-1503; you are also welcome to e-mail me at

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