State partners launch initiative to reset workforce development strategy

May 15, 2018
Today, the Hawthorn Foundation, the Missouri Department of Economic Development and the Missouri Department of Higher Education launched Talent for Tomorrow, an initiative that will fundamentally reset Missouri’s approach to meeting the state’s workforce needs.

Today, the Hawthorn Foundation, the Missouri Department of Economic Development and the Missouri Department of Higher Education launched Talent for Tomorrow, an initiative that will fundamentally reset Missouri’s approach to meeting the state’s workforce needs.  

This transformational project is the cornerstone of a comprehensive suite of initiatives, including DED’s Best in Midwest economic development strategic planning and an upcoming Hawthorn Task Force focused on statewide branding, that will position Missouri to excel in a global economy changed by trade, technology, and other dynamic forces.

“As our industry changes, so do our workforce needs,” John Sondag, President of AT&T Missouri said. “We have good high-paying jobs available, but can’t find applicants with the skills we need to fill those positions. These are people that we need in order to keep up with ongoing network investment and growing demand for our products and services. They’re essential to our growth and continued investment in Missouri.”

“Ensuring that our economy has available, productive and talented workers is the single most important factor for success in economic development. Our businesses will thrive and Missouri will be more competitive if we attract, retain, and grow our workforce,” Director of Missouri’s Department of Economic Development Rob Dixon said.

“In the coming decades, the American economy will be profoundly affected by trade, technology, and other megatrends. We must act now to ensure that Missouri will lead the nation in preparing talented workers who can thrive in the dynamic new economy.  Education will be a crucial part of the action plan,” Commissioner of Higher Education Zora Mulligan said.

The initiative will produce an assessment of how the state’s current workforce aligns with employer needs, look at different economic scenarios to help build a workforce system that can adapt as the economy evolves, and identify a pilot project.

“It’s my belief that no matter one’s core industry, companies will need to be well positioned to be a digital first industry. For agriculture to remain at the forefront of cutting-edge digital innovations, we need technology-focused talent like software engineers, data scientists, and programmers,” Melissa Harper, Vice-President of Global Talent and Inclusion & Diversity at Monsanto Company said. “We’re excited to see the state recognize the need to assess and redesign our workforce system to evolve with Monsanto’s and other state employers’ needs.”

The initiative will culminate with the announcement of a set of recommendations that will form an overarching workforce strategy for the state. A major goal will be to align secondary and postsecondary education with the public workforce system and the needs of the private sector.

“Much like other races toward innovation, we know that whoever figures out the right solution to this problem is going to reap great rewards,” Director of Workforce Development Mardy Leathers said. “Figuring out the workforce problem is what’s going to set us apart from our competition. It’s going to put us at the front of the pack for job creation and economic growth.”

Guiding the initiative will be a task force of thought leaders from business and industry, education, trade, the public workforce system, state and federal government, and the legislature. There will also be opportunities for innovators, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, scholars, and others to engage in the process through regional workshops in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia, and Cape Girardeau.

“Hawthorn is delighted to help sponsor this important initiative,” said Warren Erdman, Hawthorn Foundation board chair. “Preparing our workforce is among the most important things Missouri must do to compete for the jobs of the future.”

Task force and regional meetings will take place over the summer, with the final report being unveiled at the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development September 5-7, 2018.  

For more information, visit the Hawthorn Foundation's website.

Learn more about the Department of Economic Development’s Best in Midwest initiative here.