Springfield, MO

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Opinion: How to develop talent for tomorrow

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Employers that provide community resources or programs to develop talent within their companies are developing loyalty from existing employees and filling vacant midlevel positions.

For example, Amazon recognized their average employee stays in an entry-level position for about a year. After one year of employment, Amazon provides a bonus for the employee to pursue educational interests that support the employee’s community. Amazon provides accredited classes at the jobsite, with child care, for hourly paid employees. The average accredited program, through a local community college, is about two years. Amazon found that employees took advantage of the program and stayed with their company beyond the three years.

Locally, one of our health care entities saw an increase with employees asking for advances on their paychecks and drawing money from retirement. They decided to have Community Partnership of the Ozarks come to the jobsite and provide the four-week Making Sense of Money-Basic Budgeting program while individuals were at work. Over 30 individuals participated and about 23 completed the program, which qualified them for savings account match up to $100.

Another local health care agency started creating apprenticeship programs for patients released from their care. Former patients are learning how to become medical assistants and nursing assistants, which can lead to a career path in the health industry.

A local grant, through the Darr Family Foundation, enabled over 100 middle- and high school-age students to identify the types of jobs they want when they become adults. Monthly meetings take place through after-school programs or youth groups at local churches. Professionals that match the job interest of the students informally meet with the students during their youth program. The goal of the project is to educate students about high school programs that provide opportunities to earn stackable credentials and college credits while in high school.

Through the project, organizers learn about the student’s job interests in an environment that is culturally comfortable and trusting for the student. Students meet with professionals and college students who are in the related field to guide the students through Springfield Public Schools talent development pathways. Partners for the project include youth groups from SPS, The Courageous Church, Sanctuary of Praise, International Institute, Turning Point, Deliverance Temple and New Hope International Ministries. The students have met architects, attorneys, a police officer, a basketball coach, a music therapist, an opera singer and voice coach, engineers and health professionals.

Another way of preparing talent for the workforce is through the Missouri Job Center. The center took its Change 1000 employability certification program to a local prison with 15 inmates who were going to be released soon. All 15 completed the program and two or three job offers were made upon release.

Employers may want to review their benefits packages or patterns of their employees to identify community services to bring to the worksite. Many people working in entry-level positions or earning minimum wage often have other jobs to supplement their income, which leaves little time for family, hobbies or continuing their education. Employers have a captive audience with the employees at the worksite to bring community resources and services to their employees. I encourage employers to see what they can do within their scope of business to develop talent with existing employees or give opportunities to others who may have unique backgrounds.

Francine Pratt is director of Prosper Springfield, a poverty reduction initiative led by Community Partnership of the Ozarks and United Way of the Ozarks. She can be reached at


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