Gov. Parson targets adult workforce development with Fast Track program

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. One of Mike Parson's top priorities since becoming Missouri's Governor is workforce development and his latest program called Fast Track was the subject of a roundtable discussion Friday in Springfield.

The Governor held his roundtable discussion at SMC Packaging, one of the largest suppliers of corrugated packaging in the midwest located on Division Street.

A number of business and education leaders were on hand to hear about the Governor's $22-million scholarship program that will allow Missourians to receive training for high-demand, high-paying jobs such as advanced manufacturing, computer science and healthcare.

"Particularly in southwest Missouri where we have unemployment around 2% and poverty approaching 20%, what we have is that a lot of people have jobs," explained Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr. But what we need is a lot of people with the skill set to get better jobs."

"Missouri already has several scholarship programs that do a great job serving younger people that come straight out of high school, added Zora Mulligan, the Mo. Commissioner for Higher Education. "But this would really be the first one that's designed for adults."

The Fast Track financial aid program will target the 755,000 Show-Me state residents who have some college experience but no degree with the goal of improving their economic status.

"Fast Track will serve adults who are 25-and-older and it's really intended to reach middle income and below," Mulligan said. "So the income cutoff is $40,000 for an individual. It really will give people an opportunity that in a very short period of time, take that income of $40,000-or-less and increase it often by 10-15 thousand dollars."

While you might have guessed that the healthcare industry might have high-demand, high-paying jobs, you may be surprised to find that some manufacturing jobs are in that category as well.

"We've probably haven't done a good job in showing people what career opportunities there are in manufacturing," explained Kevin Ausburn, the CEO of the SMC Packaging Group that hosted the event. "Now all the equipment that we purchase is all high-tech computer-controlled, requiring a pretty good level of sophistication to run it."

Right now the Fast Track program is still moving through the legislative process. But the Governor is optimistic that it's on the fast-track to pass.

"It's the first time I've seen in my career that you've seen the education community, the elected officials, and the private sector working together to come up with a real solution that really affects people and I think that's long overdo," he said.