As of December 2019, Missouri has an overall unemployment rate of only 3.3%. Manufacturing, construction, and healthcare services top the list of sectors most in demand. Even though wages are becoming more competitive and some companies are offering full benefits from the first day of employment, it seems there is a “revolving door” with a lot of turnover. Small-town newspapers are filled with help wanted ads. So, why do companies have trouble recruiting and retaining high-quality workers? The answer to solid workforce development is two-fold: (1) qualifications and (2) soft skills.
Fast Track to a Qualified Workforce
According to the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, approximately 66 percent of all jobs in Missouri require some form of higher education. Back in 2011, the state set a goal–that 60% of working-age adults will have a certificate or degree by 2025. Efforts at meeting that goal are paying off because as of 2019, the figure stood at 53.7%.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson has made workforce development training a priority in his administration. As a result, funding has been approved to create the Fast Track program, which provides the full cost of schooling for adults pursuing a certificate, bachelor’s degree or an industry-recognized credential in a high demand field. $10 million was approved for the program’s kickoff in 2019. Currently, there are 48 Fast Track eligible public community colleges, technical schools, and four-year universities; these institutions provide training adults who qualify for the program. The catch? Grant recipients must maintain Missouri residency and work in Missouri for three years after graduation to prevent the grant from becoming a loan that must be repaid with interest.
Soft Skills: Key Aspects to Worker Success
When graduates of the Fast Track program enter the workforce, they will possess the technical training to do the job. But, that’s just part of the equation when it comes to building a stable, productive workforce. What’s often missing are soft skills–those important dispositions that are hard to teach and hard to learn, yet essential for career success. For example:
Want Workers with Good Soft Skills? Teach Them in Our Schools.
People typically aren’t born with all the dispositions or soft skills they need to be successful in their careers. Many are developed throughout life, but a very good way to nurture that development is by making them a part of P-12 curriculum.
A large multi-year study conducted in 133 Chicago public high schools looked at the impact of teaching soft skills, and the results are impressive. Out of the 150,000 students that participated in the study, researchers found that those whose schools purposely included soft skills in their instruction were the most successful. For example: They were better at resolving conflicts. They were more motivated to work hard. They had higher grades. They had fewer absences. They had fewer disciplinary problems and had few arrests. And, those students who went to schools where soft skills were taught graduated and went to college at higher rates.
OneMissouri believes soft skills should be incorporated into the Missouri Learning Standards, and should be valued just as highly as other subjects such as mathematics, science, reading/literacy, and social studies. After all, acquiring knowledge is one thing–being able to turn that knowledge into a successful career is quite another.
OneMissouri is committed to research, education, advocacy, and policy development on behalf of all Missourians.
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