Editorial: Preparing for Success in a Technology-Driven Workforce

   

By Jeanie Riddle,
State Senator for District 10

Sen. Riddle

Creating policies that promote economic development and encourage job creation is a priority of every member of the Missouri General Assembly. The Legislature has worked hard to encourage job growth by providing targeted tax relief and by creating important programs intended to incentivize economic development. However, I believe we can do a better job at preparing our workforce to succeed in today’s technology-driven economy.

As I travel throughout our communities, I hear directly from employers that the No. 1 issue facing businesses is the lack of skilled workers available to meet the demands of today’s economy. Our country’s manufacturing industry is experiencing a shortage of the skilled workers needed to meet the industry’s rigorous demands. These are good paying jobs with excellent benefits. In 2012, the average manufacturing worker earned $77,505 annually, including pay and benefits. In contrast, the average worker in 2012 earned $62,063 in pay and benefits. However, these manufacturing jobs require more than just a high school degree; they require advanced, specialized on-the-job training. In order to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving economy, I believe our state must assist employers with providing advanced training to their employees. We must create a collaboration between industry and education, a partnership where our state’s world-class educational institutions are working with our state’s businesses, big and small, to prepare our state’s workforce to succeed in today’s ever-changing economy.

For inspiration, we can turn to our neighbors in Kentucky, where they have been extremely successful in encouraging partnerships between education and industry. The Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) is a partnership of regional manufacturers whose purpose is to implement dual-track, apprenticeship-style training intended to create a pipeline of highly skilled workers. The result of these partnerships is the ability to offer an Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program. This is a five-semester program that matches education with continuous, real-world working experience with one of the state’s leading manufacturers. The program combines the proven components of a workplace apprenticeship with advanced training in areas such as electronics, mechanics, robotics and other areas. The result is an educational experience that includes hands-on training, while experiencing the best practices of a world-class manufacturer. Here at home, Bodine Aluminum in Troy utilizes a similar training program to equip its workforce with the advanced skills needed to succeed. Over the years, the company has grown to be one of the largest producers of aluminum castings in the country. In addition, several other communities in the 10th Senatorial District are exploring the possibility of utilizing similar training programs. KY FAME has been a resounding success in Kentucky, and I believe a similar program can also succeed in the Show-Me State.

These types of public-private partnerships have the ability to transform our state’s workforce. In 2019, working to establish these types of partnerships will be my top priority. The success of our state’s economy depends on our ability to produce an advanced and skilled workforce, and I believe the only way we can do this is by encouraging everyone to work together to move our state forward.