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$250,000 granted to fund skills gap initiatives

Thursday, January 19, 2006

AREA -- The South Central Workforce Investment Board (SCWIB) and the Council of Chief Local Elected Officials (CCLEO) have been awarded $250,000 to implement Skills Gap initiatives in the region, said Tana Holder, executive director of the SCWIB.

"We are very grateful to the Divisions of Career Education and Workforce Development for recognizing the needs of a rural area. We are committed to utilize this funding to help employees maintain and upgrade their workforce, as well as help employees and future employees develop the skills to be successful and to advance in their field," Holder stated.

The SCWIB is a non-profit organization that administers federal and state funding to deliver workforce development programs in a 12-county area in southern Missouri including Oregon County.

The board, which is chaired by Garland Barton, human resources director at Systems & Electronics Inc., is comprised of business representatives, agencies and educational entities and is tasked by the governor with overseeing employment and training activities in the region. The board and a team of 12 presiding commissioners, including Leo Warren from Oregon County, work together to assure that approximately $3 million of training funds coming into their region are used consistent with the provisions of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.

Five local investment boards will receive more than $850,000 to help address employer needs in their regions as part of the governor's commitment to improving Missouri's business climate.

The first phase of this initiative involved each of Missouri's 14 workforce investment regions receiving $10,000 to develop a local consortium that conducted a regional supply/demand skills gap analysis, identified current and future needs of businesses and industry, and selected the targeted occupations for each region.

In order to determine the skills gaps in the South Central Region, focus groups were held in Poplar Bluff and West Plains in March 2005. Local employees state that the local skill gaps focused mostly on issues such as the job readiness of employees and potential employees.

The SCWIB will be using the $250,000 award over the next 18 months to implement a blitz of training over the 12 counties through a series of interrelated programs that represent a holistic approach that will serve to meet the needs identified in March. The Workforce Initiative/Skills Enhancement (WISE) project will benefit the following populations: students from middle school to higher education; workers without general educational development (GED) diplomas; workers lacking essential skills; and companies needing training assistance.

The program known as the Missouri Regional Skill Gap Initiative is a cooperative effort between the Department of Economic Developments Division of Workforce Development and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Division of Career Education.

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