Accelerated Job Training Seen as Key to Missouri's Recovery

April 01, 2010
By  Eileen Wolfington

In St. Louis City and County and the state of Missouri, there is a general agreement that workforce development priorities include job creation, training and the placement of dislocated workers and youth. “We want to do all that we can to have a highly trained workforce to meet the high growth needs in the future,” said Julie Gibson, director of workforce development for the Missouri Department of Economic Development. One way to do this is to appropriate general revenue to help businesses train their workers. This would have a positive impact on economic development wherein the company will either create jobs or make a capital investment.

Several questions need to be considered. How can we provide skills for individuals to become re-employed and how do we educate for long-term careers? One example is finding short-term, accelerated training programs to enhance the skills of dislocated and laid-off individuals and getting them employed as quickly as possible. In a 2009 report on the state of the St. Louis workforce, dislocated workers who were surveyed indicated that supporting their family was a primary concern and that they could not afford to get re-trained over a two-year period.

The St. Louis Community College Accelerated Job Training Program offers several short-term training programs in areas such as environmental and green jobs, health care, business applications and technical training. These programs were developed to fill jobs in demand. The number of hours or weeks required and the cost, if any, varies by program.

Other types of programs may be specifically targeted toward certain populations. For example, Show-Me Heroes focuses on hiring Missouri veterans. The program brings existing resources together to help connect veterans and employers. Launched by Missouri’s Gov. Jay Nixon in December 2009, Training for Tomorrow is a $12 million initiative to train Missourians for high-tech, high-demand careers. County governments will partner with a member institution of the Missouri Community College Association and apply for grant dollars to fund the development or expansion of programs that will train participants in technology fields. Targeted occupations could include veterinary and pharmacy technicians, nursing aides or skilled craftsmen.

The St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) is a workforce development and career center that’s run by the city of St. Louis. Since the job market has been sluggish, SLATE has provided longer periods of training to their clients. Executive director Michael Holmes indicated that SLATE is starting an on-the-job training program. The state is allowing the center to develop a program that will pay a percentage of a person’s salary for six months. The goal of the program is for the employee to be hired at the end of six months. While still in its infancy, five companies have shown interest.

How do we educate for the long-term and offer a training program that will result in a career and not just a job? A possible solution is career blueprinting, a road map to help Missourians become more competitive while seeking employment and upward mobility. The Regional Collaboration Center (RCC) is a collaborative sponsored by the Missouri Department of Economic Development, Division of Workforce Development (DWD) and the U.S. Department of Labor. DWD has partnered with the St. Louis Community College, local Workforce Investment Boards, Missouri Career Centers, the United Auto Workers Union and BounceBack St. Louis. Formed to address the needs of St. Louis area residents affected by trade-related layoffs and plant closings, RCC offers career blueprinting. Guided by an RCC career counselor, this tool helps to align participants’ skills with the ideal career paths. Accurate and industry-specific labor market information is provided to participants.

What are some of the targeted industry clusters? The St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) focuses on five clusters: advanced manufacturing, financial services, information technology, plant and medical sciences, and transportation and distribution. Several ways help the five distinct clusters include state and economic development programs, more customized training, employee retention, and incentives offered to employers that help fund training services, such as the Missouri Community College New Jobs Training Program. This program lowers the cost of locating a new facility or expanding a workforce in Missouri by helping with training services funding. These services may include specialized training for a specific industry, adult basic education, on-the-job-training or occupational skill training.

Finally, a number of programs in Missouri focus on green jobs. For example, the RCGA is participating in the St. Louis Climate Prosperity Project. Funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, this national initiative will help lead the St. Louis region toward a “green belt” economy that fosters green savings, opportunities and talent. Other efforts include the Missouri Green Jobs Report research on how the interest in green technology and know-how may affect Missouri workers. In addition, the Missouri Division of Workforce Development received a $6 million grant to support the state’s energy planning process. Lastly, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a Pathways Out of Poverty $3.3 million federal training grant for green jobs to Better Family Life. This St. Louis-based nonprofit is the managing partner of the Metropolitan, Education and Training (MET) center where disadvantaged participants will be trained for careers such as weatherization technicians/installers, LEED Green associates and biofuels collection technicians. Better Family Life hopes to train 900 individuals and place 700 of them during the 24-month grant period.


2009 State of St. Louis Workforce Report

St. Louis Community College Accelerated Job Training Program

Show-Me Heroes

Training for Tomorrow

Regional Collaboration Center

Missouri Community College New Jobs Training Program

St. Louis Climate Prosperity Project

Missouri Green Jobs Report

U.S. Department of Labor Pathways Out of Poverty Training Grants for Green Jobs

Bridges is a regular review of regional community and economic development issues. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.

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