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Governor discusses higher education, workforce investment with community leaders


Governor Mike Parson met with public and private sector community leaders on February 10 at the Missouri State University efactory Jay Wasson Idea Loft to discuss transformational investments in Missouri’s workforce and education system.

Leaders from Springfield Public Schools, the City of Springfield, Greene County, Missouri State University, Ozarks Technical Community College, and U.S. Congressman Billy Long joined private sector business leaders to learn more about Parson’s proposed investments and ways the state can collaborate with local communities.

“The State of Missouri is your partner,” Parson said, “and communication is critical to success.”

These increased allocations are feasible due, in part, to the $2.6 billion in American Rescue Plan Acts funds distributed to Missouri. The proposed Fiscal Year 2023 operating budget is $47 billion, compared to about $35 billion in FY 2022.

Beyond a 5.4 percent increase to higher education institutions’ core funding, the Governor overviewed additional proposed investments into programs including MoExcels, employer-driven workforce programs, increased teacher pay, scholarship opportunities, broadband infrastructure, and campus capital investments. Missouri State University is slated to receive funding for their Center for Transformational Education for Life, Physical, and Health Sciences and Ozarks Technical Community College will receive funding for their Airframe and Powerplant Maintenance Center for Excellence. He noted this is just the first year of a three-year plan to increase investment in workforce and education.

The prioritization of workforce development comes at a crucial time, as employers across the state face immense worker shortages. Missouri’s unemployment rate is currently lower than pre-pandemic levels, yet current state data shows almost 120,000 job openings across the state.

Chamber President Matt Morrow and Chamber board members thanked the Governor for his focus on addressing these workforce challenges and emphasized the importance of prioritizing childcare and broadband issues, both current workforce barriers.

“You have built some really great programs, specifically the Fast Track Incentive Grant, and because of that we are now in an excellent position to benefit from this federal funding,” Morrow said. “We are so grateful for your leadership on this priority.”

Dr. Kayla Hahn, the governor’s policy director, specifically highlighted the administration’s childcare investments, noting this is a top barrier to both employers and employees.

“If we’re asking people to get back into the workforce, we should be thinking about providing innovative solutions to address childcare barriers,” Hahn said.

Parson noted that these types of innovative solutions require collaboration, as community partnerships and buy-in will be a top priority when the state is considering funding requests.

Collaboration is often a common theme noted in Springfield, as intentional communication and partnerships are a long-standing strength of this region that have received notice.  Dr. Zora Mulligan, the state’s Commissioner of Higher Education and Workforce Development, praised Springfield’s reputation of strong collaboration and community support, which is not always guaranteed in every area of the state. She noted this united front has been a key factor in southwest Missouri’s successful project funding requests throughout the years.

Mulligan also explained that while she has been in this professional field for some time, this moment feels different.

“Governor Parson has always prioritized workforce development and infrastructure, and he pushes departments to look at these topics through a comprehensive view,” Mulligan said. “And now, there is actual transformational funding to support these collaborative efforts.”

This collaboration and comprehensiveness has been possible under Governor Parson through initiatives like Best in Midwest and Talent for Tomorrow, along with the reorganization of state departments to house Higher Education and Workforce Development under the same umbrella. Parson’s focus on these critical needs has not been without success.

Missouri has climbed in rankings in several related areas, and even tops the nation in on-the-job-training. The state is also third in the nation for apprenticeships and ranks in the top ten for new manufacturing facilities, technology growth, housing affordability, new business expansion, relocation, and much more. Read more about Missouri’s workforce and economic development statistics here.

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