MCCA partners with National Skills Coalition to close Missouri’s skills gap

In a meeting with the National Skills Coalition, Missouri’s community colleges looked at several statewide policies that would enable colleges to train workers to fill the state’s growing skills gap.

In Missouri, there are not enough workers trained to the middle-skill level to fill the jobs available. Middle-skill jobs accounted for roughly 53 percent of jobs in Missouri in 2015, but only 46 percent of the state’s workers are trained to this level. These middle-skill jobs require a credential beyond high school, but not a four year degree, leaving many workers either under or over-trained.

The National Skills Coalition helps states like Missouri bolster their economy through developing and advancing policy that closes the middle-skill gap, and thereby makes the state’s economy more competitive.

In their initial meeting, Missouri’s community colleges discussed three National Skills Coalition policies:

Integrated Education and Training

This educational model allows students to simultaneously gain basic skills such as math or reading while also completing occupational or industry-specific training. This model has proven successful over more traditional approaches because adult learners who lack basic skills are often discouraged by the prospect of spending months or years in basic education before they can begin occupational training. Integrated Education and Training Models are designed to help busy working adults gain skills that are immediately applicable and directly increase the student’s earning power.

Job-Driven Financial Aid

Often, financial aid is not available to students enrolled in short-term training programs or for students enrolled at less than half time. These students are typically working learners, looking to skill-up quickly in order to get a better job while balancing their work and family responsibilities. Job-driven financial aid policies help provide grants or tuition waivers to students in postsecondary middle-skill training programs—even if students are enrolled short-term or less than half time. These policies can increase access to training for low-skill workers, looking to move into middle-skill jobs.

Stackable Credentials

Stackable credentials, which are currently being piloted in Missouri through the MoWINs programs, are short-term, industry-recognized credentials that build upon one another, and count toward a greater degree or credential. This allows learners to complete education or training at a pace that fits with their work or family responsibilities, because they can “stop out” when they need to, but with each short-term credential that they complete, they increase their marketability as a job candidate. With stackable credentials, they can resume their learning at a later time without having to repeat what they’ve already learned.

The colleges also discussed ways that other progress made under MoWINs could be scaled and sustained through this effort, including work done on guided pathways, apprenticeships and competency-based education.

To move forward, the National Skills Coalition will prepare recommendations for how to prioritize the policies discussed, and MCCA will consider their recommendations for implementation as a sector.

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