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In an interview with SBJ Editor Eric Olson, Francine Pratt discusses ways community stakeholders can battle poverty in Springfield.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
In an interview with SBJ Editor Eric Olson, Francine Pratt discusses ways community stakeholders can battle poverty in Springfield.

Prosper Springfield IDs 3 avenues to tackle underemployment

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With a low unemployment rate in Springfield, a more accurate gauge of poverty in the area is underemployment, says Prosper Springfield Director Francine Pratt.

Pratt, who spoke this morning as Springfield Business Journal’s guest for the monthly 12 People You Need to Know live interview series, said the organization seeking to bolster the workforce and stop poverty is rolling out three pathways local stakeholders can follow to aid in the effort.

The three avenues are helping workers complete unfinished credentials, providing short-term training programs and offering apprenticeships.

“That will help address the poverty level by getting people higher-paying jobs,” Pratt said, referring to Springfield’s poverty rate of 25.7 percent in 2017. “We know a lot of employers that can get entry-level positions filled, but getting those mid-level positions that start at $15, $17 an hour, that’s a challenge.”

The Springfield metropolitan statistical area’s unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in January, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pratt said a low unemployment rate figure can be misleading because people who are working may not earn living wages despite having multiple jobs. They also might lose government assistance as minimum wage levels rise, she said.

“People are working. They just may not have the skills to get higher-paying jobs,” she said.

Prosper Springfield, which on March 15 started its third year, is scheduled to host its second-annual breakfast event on May 14, where the organization will focus on the three pathways and how they can utilized by employers to stimulate the growth of the local workforce.

Created in response to the Impacting Poverty Commission Report, Prosper Springfield has a goal to reduce poverty by 5 percentage points and to increase post-secondary attainment to 60 percent by 2025. Currently, post-secondary attainment in Greene County is around 40 percent, she said.

To do that, the organization backed by grants, Community Partnership of the Ozarks and United Way of the Ozarks is working with more than 300 organizations on community betterment goals.

“My work is done when no matter who you are, where you come from and no matter what race you are, if you want to move forward in your life in this community, you’re able to do so,” Pratt said. “That means we’re being inclusive, we’re providing access and we’re being intentional.

“Be intentional in what you do and get out of your lane.”


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