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New community college network seeks to build skilled workforce

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new agreement between the state’s community colleges is looking to increase the availability of a skilled workforce in the Show-Me State and help the state’s economy grow.

The Missouri Community College Workforce Development Network, signed by the heads of twelve different schools, aims to build a workforce to compete with other states for job creation projects.

MCCA President Rob Dixon speaks at the MCCA news conference announcing a new community college network agreement on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

“We want to show the state and our business leaders that community colleges are committed to doing our part to help Missourians get the skills that they need to earn higher pay, get better jobs, and help Missouri’s businesses find the workers that they need to grow and create jobs. By breaking down these barriers and drawing upon our collective resources, each college is going to be able to play to its strengths,” Rob Dixon, Missouri Community College Association President said. “We will be able to serve businesses in every square inch of the state.”

“When you look at the economic development activity that happens in our state, community colleges are an essential component of the state’s economic engine,” House Speaker Todd Richardson said. “This agreement today is only going to improve their ability to serve the needs of this state.”

The creation of the network would give businesses in Missouri resources at every college in the state through their local community colleges. Under current procedural and geographical barriers, colleges are prevented from working outside of their service area, meaning that if a community college does not have expertise in, they would be unable to give the workforce training that businesses need.

Dr. Barbara Kavalier, the president of St. Charles Community College, was one of the presidents and chancellors who signed the partnership agreement Thursday morning. She says this partnership is a milestone in the history of community colleges in the state, and will allow colleges to meet the needs of the industries for specialized training in a quick and efficient manner.

Dr. Barbara Kavalier
Dr. Barbara Kavalier

“We’re sharing resources, working together with the primary focus on meeting the needs of businesses and industries in a quick and adaptive way,” she said. “We’re the ones on the forefront that can step in and develop programs and deliver training that is needed to get the employees up to speed, so I think that’s pretty significant.”

Dr. Kavalier says she has worked in other states like Texas, which has had success in implementing a similar agreement. She also noted that moving from one community college to another can be an easy process, as nearly all credits can be transferred from one to another.

Supporters of the network’s creation argue that increasing the access to resources will be paramount, as the FY2018 budget would cut workforce training by 16 percent, as well as a nine percent cut to community colleges.

“We understand the difficult budget situation facing the state, and with this partnership, we hope to help grow the state’s economy in two ways,” Dixon said. “First, we want to help Missourians learn the skills they need to earn higher pay, and second, we hope to connect Missouri businesses with the workforce they need to grow and create jobs.”

Sen. Jay Wasson was pleased to see the signing, saying it had been a two-year process for him, trying to figure out what other states and colleges were doing in order to attract jobs.

Speaker Todd Richardson and Sen. Jay Wasson spoke at the MCCA news conference announcing a new network agreement on Thursday, March 9, 2017.
Speaker Todd Richardson and Sen. Jay Wasson spoke at the MCCA news conference announcing a new network agreement on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

“It feels good,” he said. “Everybody here has worked very hard, and I believe this is the culmination of it, but at the same time, it’s a start to see where we can go with his. It’s making an investment in the employee, not the employer, and that’s the best investment the state can make.”

Wasson says that by creating a workforce that is ready to go from the very first day with little training is exactly what companies are looking for. He’s hopeful of what this agreement could mean for the future.

“I think we can be one of the best states out there,” Wasson said. He says that the central location of Missouri, combined with a well-trained workforce, is very enticing to prospective companies, and could provide a great boost.

“Economic development, more than anything, depends on a talented workforce,” Missouri Chamber of Commerce President Dan Mehan said. “No other issue is of more concern for businesses today. This network is the type of innovative solution Missouri needs to address workforce challenges. We are proud to stand with leaders of the state’s community colleges to help expand our workforce for employers and opportunities for workers no matter where they are located in Missouri.”