Lee’s Summit is poised to serve as a national model for successful workforce development, thanks to its collaborative, proactive effort between the public and private sectors. That’s the consensus from educational leaders who shared insights into workforce readiness programs at The Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council’s February advisory board meeting.
“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘Good help is hard to find,’ and that has never been more true than right now in this economy,” LSEDC President Rick McDowell said. “Businesses are increasingly concerned that there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill available positions, so we want to be sure our members are informed about the vast array of workforce development resources and programs available in Lee’s Summit.”
Panelists at the Feb. 3 event included Dr. Chuck Ambrose, University of Central Missouri president; Dr. Kirk Nooks, Metropolitan Community College-Longview president; Stan Elliott, Missouri Innovation Campus director; Dr. David McGehee, Lee’s Summit R-7 School District superintendent; and Elaine Metcalf, Summit Technology Academy director.
LSEDC Board Chairman William Brown served as moderator and predicted that Lee’s Summit’s investment in tomorrow’s workforce will pay big dividends.
“The community that gets itself together, makes the right connections and finds the right alignments as it relates to workforce development is going to be the winning community in the economic development sweepstakes,” Brown said. “We’ve been telling young people they must have a four-year degree to have a successful career, and that’s just not the case anymore.“
A key effort aimed at building workforce readiness is the under-construction Summit Technology Academy/Missouri Innovation Campus, which is scheduled to open in August 2017. The 140,000-square-foot, $40 million campus will house a partnership between the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, the University of Central Missouri and Metropolitan Community College.
Options for students attending STA/MIC range from two- and four-year degree programs, paid internships lasting up to three years, as well as both on-the-job training and vocational technical training.
“We’re talking about connecting the dots between educational institutions, students, the business community and jobs being created,” McGehee said. “The question is, how do we best align ourselves with jobs being developed, and then line up with the jobs being created?”
The White House has identified MIC as a national model for workforce development. As student loan debt continues to make college out of reach for many, UCM President Dr. Chuck Ambrose predicted interest in Lee’s Summit’s program will grow.
“People are going to want to have access to this,” Ambrose said. “We are developing a K-12 pathway which provides an accelerated timeline to a degree, with little or no debt, in a learning space that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the U.S.”
MCC-Longview President Dr. Kirk Nooks urged the community to take workforce development to the next level by pursuing the Lumina Foundation’s stated goal of 60 percent of Americans holding a secondary degree by 2025.
“Lee’s Summit has the greatest opportunity. What it will take is coming together to establish a shared vision. We need to make sure all of our students have the opportunity to be ready for the workforce,” Nooks said.
In the coming months, the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council plans to launch a page on its website to help connect businesses with students interested in accepting paid or volunteer internships. More information about Lee’s Summit’s workforce development initiatives is available here.