Community Colleges Uncover the Problems with Missouri’s Workforce
A report released on April 27 by the Missouri Community College Association outlined three problems with Missouri’s workforce and highlighted several ongoing efforts to address these issues.
The report listed supply and demand gaps for key industries, the availability of middle-skill workers, and the availability of adequate soft skills as the top three gaps in the state’s workforce today. The report cited a number of different studies which analyzed both labor market data, job ads, and employer feedback.
“Employers have said for a while now that the availability of a skilled workforce is the number one challenge that they face,” Rob Dixon, Missouri Community College President and CEO said. “With this report, we wanted to dig deeper and find the specific skills that employers are having difficulty finding.”
According to research reviewed by the association, there is a gap between the number of jobs available and the number of job seekers in several key industries. Health care, business and sales and science and technology each had more than a 9 percent gap between the number of job ads posted in 2016 and the number of registered job seekers.
The second gap outlined in the report had to do with the number of workers qualified to fill jobs that require more than high school but less than a four-year degree. The research reviewed showed that these “middle-skill” jobs make up 53 percent of the labor market, but only 46 percent of Missourians are trained to this level.
“There are nearly 6,500 manufacturing facilities that need highly skilled workers statewide,” said East Central College President Dr. Jon Bauer. “In Franklin County alone, there are more than four times the manufacturing establishments than any other county in the East Central College service region. The programs and degrees we offer are tailored for these types of jobs and careers.”
Lastly, the report highlighted research demonstrating gaps in the availability of workers with basic soft skills, such as communication, work ethic and critical thinking. In one study that was referenced, more than 60 percent of employers reported difficulty finding workers with adequate soft skills.
“Soft skills are extremely important in the workplace,” said HVAC instructor David DeArmond. “We instill a certain set of values in our students–integrity, respect and accountability.”
The report comes as Missouri’s community colleges are launching several new initiatives, including the new Workforce Development Network, announced last month.
“We know that these gaps exist, and our colleges are working to address them,” Dixon said. “One of the biggest challenges that we face in implementing these solutions is raising awareness among the public.”
Dixon was optimistic that Missouri can close the gaps in the workforce, but referenced one major challenge.
“There are high paying jobs to be had for workers without a four-year degree,” Dixon said. “We need Missourians to understand that, and we need them to enroll at a community college.”
Missouri’s community colleges specialize in workforce development and provide associate degrees and certificate programs. They serve as Missouri’s lead institutions in delivering postsecondary technical education in partnership with area vocational technical schools.