Gov. Mike Parson, by executive order, has reorganized the Department of Economic Development. By doing so he has cut jobs in the agency from 865 to 165.
The first reaction by many people probably may have been surprise that so many people worked for the agency. Why that many people? Missouri hardly has been a leader compared to other states in economic development.
The governor explained that many of the employees actually worked for other divisions under the umbrella of the Department of Economic Development. Those divisions have been moved to other departments.
The governor said most of the other states in competition with Missouri in economic development have less than 200 employees in their economic development departments.
Under the reorganization plan, the Division of Energy will be transferred to the Department of Natural Resources, the Division of Workforce Development will move from DED to the Department of Higher Education. The division of Economic Research and Information Center will move to the Department of Higher Education and the Office of Public Counsel and the Public Service Commission will be transferred to the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Public Registration.
Gov. Parson said the goal with all these changes is to make government more efficient.
As far as economic development is concerned, availability of a skilled workforce is the most valuable asset a state can have because of the shortage of workers. All states have this problem. That’s why workforce development if so important today.
A certain mindset is a major obstacle. Too many parents want their children to have a college education and they don’t encourage them to look elsewhere for training post high school. We don’t have enough jobs, generally speaking, for the large number of college graduates in today’s world. There are jobs that require skills that can be taught in vocational and technical schools, many offered by community colleges. There are high paying jobs waiting for graduates of those schools.
A truism is that many high school graduates aren’t college material and they drop out after a semester or two or three, or they flunk out. There are college students who have the brains to obtain a degree but lack motivation. Anybody who has been to college has been exposed to the lazy and unmotivated students.
At this time, great emphasis must be given to workforce development. The winners in industrial development will be the cities that have the availability of a trained workforce or trainable workforce.
Specialized education has never been more important than it is today. It’s not for everybody and we must not abandon the liberal arts in higher education.
More funding is needed for our community colleges so they can get more involved in vocational and technical courses. Community colleges must be recognized for the important role they play in economic development. With more funding, they could do more. The governor should appoint a special task force to study the role for community colleges in workforce development. Recommendations should be made for the state’s needs in workforce training.
We believe the actions taken by Gov. Parson make sense. But more needs to be done.