By: Brian Crouse
Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry
It’s like any engineering problem. Just start with the end user.
In the case of workforce, that’s employers. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working to bridge the divide between industry and education to ensure that Missouri’s students are learning the right skills that will land them high-paying, in-demand jobs. And just as important is upskilling and reskilling the displaced or underemployed adults already in the workforce.
Even before COVID-19 hit the state, our member companies told us frequently that they couldn’t fill their open jobs due to lack of workers with the right skillsets. In the wake of the pandemic, Missouri’s overall talent shortfall has become even more pronounced.
The Missouri Chamber’s Mathematics and Science Coalition has ramped up its ongoing efforts in response. This group of business, education, government and community stakeholders has been fostering collaboration to help ensure Missourians are equipped with knowledge and skills in STEM since 2006.
Originally STEM Day at the Capitol, STEM Celebration Week is a statewide extravaganza of science projects, tours, activities and inside looks at different STEM careers. This year, all week long, students, educators, community leaders and business professionals came together to celebrate how STEM enriches our lives, creates innovations for our world and strengthens our economy.
STEM SIGNING DAY
The Math and Science Coalition, in partnership with the Boeing Company, launched the first annual STEM Signing Day in 2019 to raise awareness of STEM opportunities for students beyond high school. Each recipient receives a $1,000 scholarship and signs a letter of intent to study a STEM field at their postsecondary education institution of choice.
Policy matters, too. Fortunately, legislation the Missouri Chamber championed in 2018 is incentivizing more Missouri high school students to take computer science courses by allowing those courses to count toward graduation as a math, science or elective requirement. The law also created a process to establish rigorous new computer science standards and curriculum guidelines, create a certification for computer science teachers, create a fund to help train computer science teachers and bring an on line program to Missouri that showcases STEM careers to students.
In 2019 the Missouri Chamber also helped pass a program called Fast Track, which addresses workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue a certificate, degree, or industry-recognized credential in an area designated as high need and is designed to ensure that tuition and fees are fully covered when combined with other federal and state financial aid.
And this year, we helped pass legislation that will boost apprenticeship by allowing the state’s 529 savings plan to be used for apprenticeship expenses. In addition, we successfully urged lawmakers to pass language establishing a statewide plan to enhance career and technical education in the state, expanding access to valuable employment-focused training during high school.
SHOW-ME CAREERS EDUCATOR EXPERIENCE
Show-Me Careers is a growing, statewide professional development network for educators, counselors and administrators to learn firsthand about relevant career pathways in today’s industry settings. The program provides a unique, hands-on learning experience inside local companies. Through these externship experiences, education professionals gain a more robust understanding of the technical skills, behaviors and mindsets that their students will need to be successful in today’s professional environments.
Last year, the Missouri Chamber earned a $6 million U.S. Dept. of Labor grant to expand apprenticeships in support of our state’s fast-growing technology industry. These funds are allowing us to expand and promote the use of apprenticeships as a way to help grow the state’s technology talent pool. Over the next four years, nearly 5,300 tech apprenticeships will be developed across Missouri and beyond to address critical needs in computer programming, network support, cybersecurity and other technology shortage areas. The Missouri Chamber also runs Missouri Apprentice Connect in partnership with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, a site that helps match apprenticeship seekers with valuable work opportunities all across the state.
“The chronic shortage of talent that many Missouri employers experience is especially prominent in STEM sectors, tackling this became one of our organization’s key focuses.”
– Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO
TECHNOLOGY 2030 REPORT
Missouri has several reasons to be optimistic about STEM job growth. When creating its Missouri 2030 strategic initiative, the Missouri Chamber hired Gallup to study the most important issues employers face. Workforce was identified as a leading challenge.
Then in 2018 we published the Technology 2030 Report, a follow-up study that projected Missouri to be among the top ten states in tech job growth over the next five years.
“Technology and computer science are rapidly growing segments of Missouri’s economy. We know the jobs are coming. We have to do everything we can to train today’s students to be ready for the high-tech jobs that will be available once they graduate into the workforce,” said Mehan.
From manufacturing to lab work to cybersecurity to countless other applications, STEM skills are foundational in today’s economy and always will be.
“Whether it’s to a traditional four-year college, two-year college or technical school – wherever their passion for STEM takes them – we need more STEM enthusiasts to pursue these high-demand fields across Missouri. The Missouri Chamber and our partners are thrilled to help tomorrow’s nurses, doctors, engineers, welders, IT professionals and scientists reach their postsecondary education goals,” said Mehan.