COLUMBIA — Volunteers working to develop job training programs in mid-Missouri announced a significant step toward that goal on Monday in the form of a $47,935 grant. The Central Missouri Workforce Investment Board awarded the money, which will pay for a study of the area's job training needs.
Columbia Fourth Ward Councilman and mayoral candidate Jerry Wade chairs the group. He said the 19-member task force came together in late 2008 to address a shortage of programs in the area. The group settled on three goals:
- To provide skilled workers for Columbia employers;
- To provide training opportunities to the area's work force;
- To anticipate what kind of job skills employers will need in the future.
Wade said it became apparent to task force members that the community lacks the necessary programs to train people for high-skilled jobs.
"If asked by an interested corporation looking at Columbia and Boone County to relocate, we couldn't guarantee the essential work-force development programs," Wade said.
The task force has a lengthy name, the Boone County/Columbia Citizens Task Force for Post Secondary Adult and Technical Education and Training, and includes members of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Regional Economic Development, Inc., and officials from local schools and universities.
In September 2009, the group applied for the grant through the Central Missouri Workforce Investment Board, which distributes money received by the state from the U.S. Department of Labor. The grant money will be used to study the needs of employers in the area, the types of job programs that already exist and the needs of people looking for job training.
The results of the study will be used to pursue future funding and relationships with existing programs.
Terry Barnes, an assistant to the provost for Community College Partnerships at MU, said there is a missing link between the public schools and skilled jobs.
"A missing piece is that when these kids graduate from high school there is no place to go to get good job training," he said.
Arden Boyer-Stephens is director of the Columbia Area Career Center, which is on the Rock Bridge High School campus and is funded by Columbia Public Schools. She said she became involved because she saw job training needs that the Career Center couldn't meet.
"We were frustrated," she said. "We could barely cover our costs with regard to adult education."
Wade said the task force hopes to establish programs through existing institutions such as MU, Columbia College, Moberly Area Community College and labor union training facilities. He said job skills programs are essential to keeping the area competitive.
"Wherever capability exists, we want to use it," Wade said. "If we don't have it, we won't be able to be competitive on a global stage."