What is the P-20 Council of the Ozarks?
It’s a committee of the (Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce) with the purpose of uniting businesses with school systems in the region. We also want to help school districts align the needs of the industries in Springfield with some of the curriculum. We don’t want to change the curriculum, but we try to let them know what we are looking for as future employers.

How does it differ from the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies?
GO CAPS certainly is more focused on the student’s desires to pursue a certain career. We are trying to make businesses aware of how you can partner with the school systems in many ways. Not just the high schools and elementary, but we are also in the technical and community colleges. We offer internships at that level. We find internships are great way to test-drive a future employee.

Where did the name come from?
P-20 stands for preschool through age 20. The most important thing in life at that age group is to seek education. We try to tell all students that education is a lifelong journey.

That’s another thing P-20 does; we encourage companies to adopt a degree attainment program.

Preschool to age 20 is a big age range. What’s happening at the lower level?
P-20 has a two-part structure. We have an executive committee, but also a steering committee.

That committee usually includes the principals of the surrounding schools. There also are a lot of businesspeople. They have group cells, or work cells, that focus on certain age groups. For example preschools, there are so many preschools between the religious community, private, city and state. We try to optimize working together with those and providing resources when we can. When I was on the steering committee, my focus was on the high school age group. Giving those interested in (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) opportunities for mentorship.

What businesses are working with the council?
SRC, Mueller, ABEC, Cox, Mercy, JMark, Central States, Multi-Craft Contractors and others businesses in the Ozarks region volunteer to be on curriculum boards for Ozarks Technical Community College. Involvement at this level helps guide the college toward the educational needs of local businesses.

The same companies and many more volunteer to have teacher externships during the summer school break. This gives teachers – mostly STEM – opportunity to observe the inner workings of a business, first hand.

In many ways, it also provides an opportunity for employees to know about the challenges presented by the teaching profession as well.

What has P-20 identified as a need going forward?
STEM is the concentration. Manufacturing is another one.

Springfield over the past few decades has lost a lot of manufacturing. The steel industry continues to be strong, but as industry comes back to Springfield, the look of the factory and how it runs is going to be much more automated than ever before. Today’s factory isn’t your dad’s factory. If the job is dirty, dangerous or demeaning, there is a good chance it will be automated.

Greg Herren is general manager of Multi-Craft Contractors Inc. and volunteer chairman of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s P-20 Council of the Ozarks. He can be reached at gherren@multi-craft.net.