Mary Ann Rojas is shaping tomorrow’s leaders.
As director of workforce development for the city of Springfield, Rojas leads programs and initiatives that help others shape their leadership skills and become productive members of the workforce. She also oversees the programs offered through the Missouri Job Center.
“I am privileged to have some level of influence in shaping the future of our city,” she says.
Examples of her leadership are her initiative to open a job center on CoxHealth’s north campus and to launch a bilingual job fair.
Rojas says very few Hispanic people in the Ozarks seek out workforce-related services. So, last year she partnered with the Alliance for Leadership, Advancement and Success – a nonprofit that works to bridge the relationship between the Hispanic community and higher education institutions – to launch a bilingual job fair.
“There are some amazing opportunities for Springfield to become an even better place to live and work,” Rojas says. “Employing individuals of diverse backgrounds, especially in leadership roles, will be a turning point for our city.”
Twenty-eight participants were offered jobs at the most recent Multi-Industry Hiring Event for Spanish Speakers in June, says Katherine Trombetta, the communications and one-stop coordinator for the Missouri Job Center. The Taney County Partnership is taking a page from Rojas’ book and she says they will be hosting a bilingual job fair in Branson.
Her role with the city involves managing a multimillion-dollar budget and a regional workforce development plan. Rojas works closely with local legislative representatives on workforce issues and often makes trips to the Missouri and U.S. capitals, she says.
And the lack of skilled workers in the trade industry has not gone unnoticed by Rojas.
In 2017, the city hosted the first Build My Future expo alongside business and industry leaders. Under Rojas’ direction, the event attracted over a thousand students, partners and volunteers, she says, and it’s increased community interest in skilled trade occupations.
She also led the city’s Change 1000 initiative, which focuses on developing skills of under-resourced individuals who may be facing underemployment, disability, layoff, educational attainment, criminal history and a lack of soft skills. Rojas says the city partnered with Bryan University to develop a curriculum that exposed participants to basic life skills, and the generational and dynamic workforce. Roughly 250 people have completed the program and she says 40% are employed.
“We found very quickly that the common denominator among all of them is they wanted a better life,” Rojas says. “On graduation day, when I see a 50-year-old man who has been out of work with tears in his eyes because of his renewed confidence … I know my sphere of influence has made a difference.”
Prior to her role with the city, Rojas worked as president and lead consultant of Texas-based Job Source for three years.
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.