Changing the Way We Do Workforce Development in the Ozarks

The current unemployment rate for the Springfield metro area is 2.7%. This is one of the lowest rates in the country, and because of this our local businesses are facing some unique challenges. It's truly a job seekers market and local employers are desperate for help. Despite the low  unemployment rate, there are still many people in the area searching for work. They may be unemployed, underemployed, or just unsatisfied  with their current situation. 

Change One Thousand seeks to connect these individuals with long-term, sustainable career opportunities while mitigating the effects of the  skills gap. Many of the aforementioned individuals looking for work are not equipped with the skills needed by the employers, and it isn't just the technical skills. Over the past three years, our MOmentum State of the Workforce survey has shown increasing employer concern over the lack of pre-employment skills (the skills needed to get a foot in the door). We realized quickly quickly that this  wasn't an issue that can be solved  exclusively by the public workforce system, we needed the employers  at the  table. This was the beginning of Change One Thousand, an  innovative and proactive approach to developing the workforce.

The ultimate goal of Change One Thousand is for 1,000 individuals to earn this credential over the next three years in Southwest Missouri. Throughout our planning process, we quickly came to the realization that a task of this undertaking couldn’t be entered into lightly. We determined that we would begin the initiative with a pilot project. This would allow us to reign in the program and focus on a smaller geographic area of participants while concentrating on a single consortium of employers. For this pilot project, we have worked with PIC East employers to develop the curriculum for the inaugural Skills Academy and targeted residents of city council Zone 1 to fill the first class. 

The Skills Academy is a two-week, interactive training focusing on all things "pre-employment skills". Upon completion of the training, participants will earn a Change One Thousand Certification, recognized by area employers. The pre-employment skills, however, aren't the only thing keeping people from obtaining and maintaining steady employment. Many people in our community face severe barriers to employment. These barriers could include childcare, transportation, a disability, a criminal background, or substance abuse issues, among others. Change One Thousand is uniquely positioned to provide our participants with the tools and resources to face these issues head on. Through a network of public donations, funding from the public workforce system, and employer contributions, along with our expansive network of community partners and resources, we will be able to work closely with our participants to alleviate the barriers that have held them back.

Another great quality of Change One Thousand is the scalability and sustainability of the model. As mentioned previously, for the pilot project was focused on connecting Zone 1 residents to manufacturing jobs at PIC East. We are now beginning branching out to different industries, geographies, and demographics as we seek to serve 1,000 individuals over the next three years. By having a consortium of employers made up of representatives from each of our targeted industries, we will ensure that the graduates of this program are not only ready to go to work, but are ready to go to work in the industry they have chosen.

In short, Change One Thousand is changing the way we do workforce development in Southwest Missouri. Who better to design a pre-employment training curriculum than the people doing the hiring? Who better to help these participants overcome barriers to employment than one of the most engaged and altruistic communities in the country?  Springfield is uniquely positioned to make an overwhelming impact.

If not now, when?