Parson, Haahr join together to address workforce needs

Roundtable held at SMC Packaging Group to discuss Fast Track, one of the Governor’s top workforce development priorities

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Governor Parson, Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr, business community leaders, and other stakeholders held a roundtable at SMC Packaging Group on Friday. The discussion centered around creating a unified effort between state government, the business community, education community, and other stakeholders to address Missouri’s workforce needs.

“I want to thank Speaker Haahr for his excellent leadership in prioritizing Missouri’s workforce needs,” Governor Parson said. “Fast Track will create opportunities for tens of thousands of Missourians across our state and ensure our state has a skilled workforce ready to meet the needs of Missouri businesses.”

One of the Governor’s top workforce development priorities, Fast Track, is currently moving through the Legislative process.

“Southwest Missouri has been a longtime leader in developing a vibrant workforce and I appreciate the Governor coming to Springfield to discuss legislation like Fast Track with regional business leaders,” Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr said. “I am excited and committed to passing innovative and bold ideas like Fast Track through the Missouri House.”

SMC Packaging Group is full-service provider of various packaging supplies. The flagship company, Southern Missouri Containers, employs over 180 individuals at its facility in Springfield.

“I appreciate Governor Parson and Speaker Haahr’s commitment in aligning public and private efforts to create a more skilled workforce in our state,” SMC Packaging Group CEO Kevin Ausburn said. “Fast Track and other workforce development programs are going to help businesses like ours across Missouri better meet our workforce needs.”

The Fast Track financial aid program will target adults working toward degree programs that fill a high-need skills gap. The proposed program would provide tuition assistance in high-demand fields to Missourians who meet the eligibility criteria. Legislation for the program unanimously passed the House Workforce Development Committee earlier this week and is moving through the Senate Education Committee.

“This program will put Missouri among the leading states that are serious about serving adults,” Commissioner Zora Mulligan said. “It will open doors for an entire segment of the population to get training and participate meaningfully in the workforce.”

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 data puts the median household income for Missouri at $51,713. Additionally, 755,000 Missourians have some college experience but no degree or certification. Fast Track will allow thousands of these Missourians the opportunity to pursue higher education opportunities in high-paying, high-demand fields, like advanced manufacturing, computer science, and healthcare. Missouri families will be equipped to achieve great economic success and the additional skillsets gained in high-demand fields will better meet the needs of employers across the state.

“Access to a qualified workforce is key to growth for Missouri employers, and up-skilling Missourians to increase wages is key to a thriving economy,” Matt Morrow President of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce said. “The Fast Track Program helps us meet both of those needs – adults get access to training and education and by extension increase their earnings potential, and employers have a larger pool of trained individuals to meet job growth demand. The Fast Track program is a “best practice” we have seen have success in other states and the Springfield business community is very supportive of its passage.”

Bill summaries and legislative action for Fast Track can be found here:

House Bill 225
Senate Bill 16