January 2023 marks two years since the Chamber launched the division of workforce development and 18 months since it hired a full-time staff member to manage the division. Chamber staff and leadership first developed the idea during the 2019 Leadership Visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala. Changes to staffing and workforce shortages exacerbated by the pandemic confirmed that workforce development was a pressing need for our community and fast-tracked this program to a January 2021 start date. Since that time, Chamber staff and committee volunteers have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to build relationships, conduct a needs assessment, and develop new programs to fill the workforce gaps in Columbia and Boone County.
At the November 9 Quarterly Membership Breakfast, the Chamber highlighted some exciting early outcomes from the division’s efforts:
- Eric Morrison, Chair Elect of the Chamber Board of Directors, shared early findings from the Chamber’s Workforce Survey, which polled 288 businesses in Columbia and Boone County over the summer of 2022. Survey questions were designed to assess the current workforce needs and challenges of businesses in Columbia/Boone County. Early results from the survey show that employers view a lack of applicants and a shortage of workers with knowledge or skills as the most significant barriers to meeting their workforce needs. Interestingly, COVID-19 related issues and availability of support services (transportation, childcare, etc.) were ranked much lower, indicating that such concerns, which were highly relevant during the pandemic, have passed. This information will help the Chamber shape its workforce initiatives to meet employers’ needs. The Chamber is so thankful to University of Missouri Extension and their team for partnering with us to gather and analyze this important data. Strategic planning based on gathered data should begin this summer.
- Educators who participated in the inaugural 2022 Show Me Careers cohort shared about their experience with the program during a panel discussion. This weeklong summer program brought together 20 teachers from Columbia Public Schools to learn about in-demand jobs in our community. Educators were given tours of facilities and the opportunity to talk directly with local residents about the education, interests and life experiences that led them to choose their current career path. The intent is to give educators the tools they need to encourage their students to pursue high-demand career paths, particularly those in the trades that may often be overlooked in a student’s post-graduate plans. This program was provided in partnership with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Columbia Public Schools Foundation.
The Workforce Development division’s work will continue in 2023 with several exciting developments, including a strategic workforce plan based on the results of the survey. This planning process is expected to begin this summer.
Show Me Careers programming for our 2022 cohort continues throughout the school year with a total of four ‘reconnector’ events, designed to offer additional hands-on experiences to educators. The first of these reconnectors took place on October 27 at 3M’s Columbia production facility and a second took place on November 30 at Woodhaven.
Planning is already underway for the 2023 Show Me Careers cohort, with hopes to expand the program and offer this opportunity to more teachers in the future. We are excited to announce that MU Health Care will be the presenting sponsor and a program host for our cohort again this year! If you are interested in sponsoring the program and/or serving as a host site, please contact Mark Bauer at 573-817-9115 or [email protected].
Questions about the Workforce Development division or interested in getting involved? Reach out to Mark Bauer for more information any time.