Springfield awarded $17.5 million grant for workforce training partnerships

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 5:01 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2022 at 5:20 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Springfield Department of Workforce Development has been selected as one of 32 recipients nationwide for a $17.5 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration. The grant seeks to spur economic growth and strengthen the pipeline of skilled workers by helping around 3,000 individuals with job training and placement opportunities over the next three years.

It is one of the largest grants ever awarded to the City of Springfield.

“This grant provides us with a tremendous opportunity and could be a game changer,” said Springfield City Manager Jason Gage.

“There were 509 applications nationwide and to be one of 32 selected, the only one awarded in the state of Missouri, I am incredibly proud to bring that money not just to the city but to the state of Missouri,” added Sally Payne, the Director of Workforce Development for the City of Springfield.

The $17.5 million in grant money is not just for Springfield. The initiative establishes the Quadra-Regional Workforce Alliance (QRWA) which is comprised of four workforce regions encompassing 51 counties in southern, south-central, central and southeast Missouri including 14 counties that are classified as persistent poverty counties.

“This grant very much focuses on those under-represented or underserved populations,” Payne explained. “And we made the decision to go after what COVID has affected the most. There’s the supply-chain issue so we chose transportation logistics plus healthcare and education as our top three.”

Jobs For the Future, a national nonprofit, will provide labor market analysis and an economic impact report at the conclusion of the grant. Other major partners in the project include Missouri Hospital Association, CoxHealth, Jordan Valley Community Health Center, Missouri State University, Truck Dynasty Driving Academy, 160 Driving Academy and Penmac.

Penmac provides educational training and placement services to school districts throughout the Ozarks and will be one of many beneficiaries of the grant as they provide a wide-range of fill-in employees.

“We have substitute teachers, substitute custodians, substitute cooks, substitute secretaries that all work in our schools,” said Penmac Education Staffing Assistant Manager Christina Casey. “And the fact that the city has partnered with us to remove any barriers people might have to be able to get their certifications and training is tremendous.”

While the new job training and opportunities are welcome news, there’s still a big question left to be answered.

With so many job openings already unfilled, will there be people who want to take advantage of this opportunity?

“Job seekers are more philosophical and more thoughtful,” Payne said. “They’re making very specific, intentional choices. And when you weigh-out the information that way, then it seems to work.”

“This partnership is not only going to help with some of that financial aid,” Casey added. “But it’s also gonna open up ideas to a new workforce.”

The grants are part of the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The Good Jobs Challenge is administered by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. It will enable communities across the country to invest in innovative approaches to workforce development that will secure job opportunities for more than 50,000 Americans.

“A trained workforce is essential to ensuring that the United States can compete and succeed in the 21st century,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan, the Commerce Department is able to make once-in-a-generation investments in industry-driven and locally-led workforce systems that will create high-quality jobs and accelerate regional economic growth, especially for underserved communities.”

The Good Jobs Challenge is part of a suite of American Rescue Plan programs developed by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to equitably distribute its $3 billion allocation to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build a better America by accelerating economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building more resilient, shockproof local economies. EDA is currently evaluating all applications and will announce grantees for the full suite of programs by September 30, 2022.

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