Many Missouri businesses are battling staffing shortages and a conference this week aims to help them thrive and create a vibrant workforce between now and the year 2030. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is putting on the Workforce2030 Conference, which runs Tuesday and Wednesday in Independence.
Nicholas Wyman, the president of Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, is a keynote speaker. He said workplace-based training through apprenticeships must be central to all economic and employment plans.
“Apprenticeship is this idea of learning by doing, so that people can actually learn an occupation or skill with their heads and their hands. That type of learning appeals to a lot of people,” he said. “When I left high school, I actually got into an apprenticeship myself, because the traditional classroom setting and learning through testing and memorization wasn’t the best way for me to learn.”
He said apprenticeships are a good return on investment and a skill for life. Wyman cites the White House reporting that for every dollar a business spends on an apprenticeship yields $1.47 in increased productivity. He said they also help employers to retain workers.
“It is possible in a lot of these industries for a person once qualified through an apprenticeship to be earning six figures in some industries – well in excess of that, particularly those that are facing the skill shortage,” he said.
Missouri is one of the top states in the nation for completed apprenticeships.
As Missouri businesses struggle to fill positions, he said they should take a broader view on who they are hiring.
“People with disability veterans, older workers, rescaling existing workers is another huge opportunity – that they may have people within their organizations that they can train. It is certainly not a labor market just to keep doing what you’ve been doing and expect a different result,” Wyman said. “It really comes back to the cornerstone of our societies and our communities. We really need to reach back into the education systems – into high schools. We need to make sure that career counselors have the information from employers, from industry. They really understand what it’s like to work in a particular occupation or industry.”
What is the cost of a skilled shortage to your organization?
“This is a serious question for employers that, you’ve got promising projects sitting on the shelf. You simply can’t sit back and wait for someone to solve this problem. I think government is great to have in the conversation, but employers can’t wait for government to solve this problem. Really addressing this is in the hands of employers. My advice is consider apprenticeship. This apprenticeship culture may seem daunting, but it’s easy to start if you start small. You don’t need to launch a huge program. You can just start with one or two apprentices and go from there, he said.
Wyman also said a key to retaining staff is for Missouri businesses to have a “rock solid” grassroots training program to help workers build skills.
To hear the Show Me Today interview with Nicholas Wyman, click below. (31:25)
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