ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — There's a new effort to make St. Louis the 'go-to' site for companies who need workers with specific skills in areas like tech, healthcare, and manufacturing.
We've heard for years about the nationwide workforce shortage. It's definitely felt here in St. Louis, with four times as many jobs unfilled as there are job seekers.
'STL Works' is a new civic effort bringing big employers and big educators together. It's centered around a web portal that's a one-stop-shop for what jobs are available and how to get trained for them.
For example, at the debut event, BJC Healthcare Group President Sandra Van Trease says kids usually first think about being doctors and nurses, instead of "things you might not have thought about."
She listed opportunities at BJC in pharmacy, respiratory therapy, accounting, HR, and information technology.
Scott Wittkop, President and COO of McCarthy, a construction firm, calls the region's economy "booming," but adds "one of the problems that booming economy is masking ... is a shortage of trained, craft labor."
Kathy Osborne with the Regional Business Council says 'STL Works' goes all-in on the education side of the equation, involving K-12 school districts, community colleges, and training programs like LaunchCode and Ranken.
"What we found is that we have a lot of the programs out there but we haven't connected the people to those programs. So we're going to announce a web portal which will have all the training programs available. It will be very easy to access.
"A college degree is a very important thing, but a college degree is very expensive," she said.
Jennings schools superintendent Dr. Art McCoy says K-12 districts should create career pathways as early as 2nd grade.
McCoy gave some examples in an interview: "MasterCard comes and teaches block coding to our third graders. In middle school, they're learning Python. In high school, we have Georgia Institute of Technology teaching them big data and how to actually do the work that NGA is hiring people for. They're teaching juniors that so they're equipped to have those jobs."
The 'STL Works' debut event featured a couple of newer entrants to the workforce. They found fulfilling careers without incurring the high cost of a university education.
Jeremy Addison now works in IT at World Wide Technology after going through a skills training program.
But he came to that career path by chance.
"Coming from East St. Louis, there aren't really that many opportunities for somebody like me," he said. "I was just lucky one day to pick up a job ad leaving Schnucks. It led me to SLATE, which led to to MPower, which led me to World Wide, which changed my life."
Addison wishes he and his friends at the time had a career guide to point them in the right direction.
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