Missouri Gov. Parson Hosts Roundtable in Springfield on Workforce Development and Education

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Missouri Governor Mike Parson has traveled the state leading roundtables to promote partnerships between higher education and workforce development groups.

At the Missouri State’s Free Enterprise Center on Thursday, local government officials, education and civic leaders along with U.S. Congressman Billy Long participated in the Governor’s Roundtable where Parson opened with positive news about a decline in the state’s unemployed count from a peak of 385,000 during the worst of the pandemic to 121,000 by the end of 2021 and continued declines into the new year.

“But here’s the thing and why we’re all here today,” Governor Parson told the group. “There are 119,000 open jobs in the state of Missouri.”

The Governor then explained what he believed to be the key to developing a strong workforce.

“It starts in schools,” he said. “It starts in K-12. And frankly, I’ll even tell you it starts in early childhood development if you really want to know where I think it starts because if you’re really going to change society as a whole, it’s going to be through a child. If you want to change health care, law enforcement, or the behavior of people in our state, make sure you have a child in school with a basic education and prepare them for the job market. .

Missouri has received nearly $470 million in federal aid from the U.S. Pandemic Bailout Act, so the state budget has grown significantly.

“Our regular operating budget is about $33 billion to $34 billion,” the governor’s policy director, Dr. Kayla Hahn, told the group. “This year, our regular operating budget is $47 billion.”

“You have a tremendous opportunity with some of the federal money that has come to our state,” Governor Parson said. “A lot of states have to fill that money because of the holes they had in their budgets. In contrast, we’ve seen our economy at the state level grow over the past couple of years, even during the pandemic. We’re therefore able to invest this money in long-term projects.

Parson told the college presidents in attendance that with the increased state budget and increased funds available from the Federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, it was an excellent time. to get their priority projects approved.

“If you get buy-in from local levels, every project you have will be approved in the budget this year,” he said. “This has never been done before in the history of our state.”

Parson mentioned many other educational goals, including encouragement for teachers.

“The base salary for a Missouri teacher is $25,000. It’s $12 an hour,” he pointed out. “We are dead last in the United States. Half of the teachers who start quitting before the age of five go elsewhere. We will try to increase this amount to $38,000 as the base salary for teachers in this state. We hope to achieve this. »

Parson also wants to expand the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant program he started that gives people 25 and older the chance to go back to school. The new financial aid program addresses workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue an industry-recognized certificate, diploma or credential in an area designated as high-need.

“We didn’t know it would happen, but 80% of the people who took advantage of it were women,” he said. “And it was a blessing in disguise that the vast majority of them went into healthcare. When you think back to what we went through, you couldn’t have established it for better timing.

Parson also said the state needs to do more with mental health, child care and broadband.

“We still have schools in the state of Missouri that don’t have broadband,” he said. “It’s not acceptable.”

Governor Parson ended his presentation with an optimistic prediction.

“It’s a good time for Missouri State,” he concluded. “We’ve been through some of the toughest times and now you’re going to have some of the best times in this state in what we’re going to be able to do over the next few years.”

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