Alex Greiwe has spent the past two years managing workforce development efforts with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, engaging the business and education communities to build and maintain a talent pipeline.
2019 Projection: A lot of synergy is currently in place at the state government level that should continue fueling focus on workforce development as a high priority through the economic development and higher education departments’ initiatives.
SBJ: How would you describe the current workforce development climate?
Greiwe: It is challenging because of the incredibly low unemployment rate. However, that challenge, because it’s being felt by all industries, is enough to motivate people to do something about it. That’s where alignment at the state level comes in, as well as talking on a local level about the things that Springfield needs to do to grow the population. If us as the chamber of commerce, if we’re trying to grow Springfield and make this a vibrant economy, to do that we have to make sure there are people here. I think we’re at just under 1 percent population growth per year. We’re still growing, but we’re not growing at a fast-enough rate to put us on a list of potential places where those companies would like to move. If you have 2 percent unemployment and only 1 percent population growth, you’re not going to have enough people to fill additional jobs that are coming to the area.
SBJ: What are key programs or ideas that could result in a more skilled workforce?
Greiwe: I think the Center for Advanced Manufacturing at (Ozarks Technical Community College) is going to be huge. It’s going to benefit companies that are already here, as well as companies that are looking to come to Springfield.
Missouri State University is also looking at doing a lot of certifications. I think four-year degrees are really valuable, especially for industries that we have here in Springfield. There are also other tools for students who might not want to pursue a four-year degree. So, we have to, as a region, build a system in education and workforce development that meets those potential employees where they’re at and gives them different levels of skills or programs. They can go through those to get jobs that are going to give them a living wage or even above that by working with companies that are willing to say they will hire people after those training programs.
SBJ: Is there a need to engage more of those with disabilities in the workforce? How can this be done?
Greiwe: There is a need specifically when you talk about unemployment being so low. Individuals with disabilities are often underutilized. Abilities First has done a lot of work to try and educate employers on the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities. Those individuals a lot of times have skills and characteristics that make them particularly good fits for things like IT and manufacturing. For a lot of employers, that’s an untapped market that they are sometimes hesitant to engage with because there are unanswered questions.
Ariake Sushi and Robata opened; Great Southern Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq: GSBC) opened its newest branch in Springfield; and a longtime employee with City Utilities of Springfield went into business for himself with the launch of Van Every Drafting & Design LLC.