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Sarah Kerner, economic development director for the city of Springfield, discusses preserving wage growth at this morning’s Talent for Tomorrow workshop.
Sarah Kerner, economic development director for the city of Springfield, discusses preserving wage growth at this morning’s Talent for Tomorrow workshop.

Workforce needs discussed at regional workshop

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Springfield played host this morning to a regional meeting that’s part of a statewide initiative to reshape workforce development.

Held at DoubleTree by Hilton, more than 160 were in attendance at the workshop, which was presided over by Rob Dixon, Missouri Department of Economic Development director, Zora Mulligan, Department of Higher Education commissioner, and Mardy Leathers, Division of Workforce Development executive director.

Dixon presented findings during the event documenting Missouri’s low ranks in the Midwest in a number of economic development areas, including workforce productivity, in which the Show-Me State is 12th out of 14 peer states, and jobs growth, where the state ranks 11th out of 14.

Numerous roundtable breakout discussions were held at the workshop, with attendees writing down opinions regarding workforce development topics such as retaining talent to increasing educational opportunities. The informational gathering process has been a part of each meeting, Dixon said, as state officials have traveled to multiple regions in the state for similar sessions during the past couple of weeks.

“This partnership has both been a lot of fun and really uplifting,” Mulligan said. “We have loved hearing from people around Missouri and getting their different perspectives and the challenges that we face together.”

The DED, Higher Education Department and the nonpartisan economic development organization Hawthorn Foundation launched the Talent for Tomorrow initiative in May. 

A second initiative, Best in the Midwest, was started by the DED at the beginning of the year to create a new statewide economic development strategy. Its intent is to focus extensively on helping businesses grow and create jobs, while also helping workers access training and acquire employable skills. For both initiatives, advisory councils, comprising stakeholders across the state, began analyzing performance indicators for economic development and workforce quality. In some of those indicators, Missouri ranks near the bottom of 14 Midwest states, Dixon said in a recent Springfield Business Journal article.

This morning’s meeting was the fourth of five planned regional sessions in the state. The meeting series commenced June 26 in Cape Girardeau, followed by Kansas City and St. Charles. The final regional workshop is scheduled tomorrow in Columbia. Information gathered from the meetings will be compiled and presented in Kansas City at the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development, Sept. 5-7.

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