Jefferson City – After hearing public testimony last week, the House Workforce Development Committee unanimously voted earlier this week to pass House Bill 225, a bill creating Fast Track, a new financial aid program that will help provide training and put more Missourians to work.
“I am pleased to see the Legislature swiftly take up and hear one of our administration’s top workforce development priorities,” Governor Parson said. “Fast Track will benefit thousands of Missourians across this state, and I applaud Senator Romine and Representative Swan for their leadership in making sure our workforce is prepared for the demands of the future.”
A similar piece of legislation, Senate Bill 16, has been heard in the Senate Education Committee and is making its way through the legislative process.
Senator Gary Romine, the bill sponsor in the Senate, said, “Fast Track gives Missourians the necessary tools and training for employment opportunities at small businesses and companies across the state and ensures our employers are able to find qualified workers to meet their workforce needs.”
Representative Kathy Swan, the bill sponsor in the House, said, “Fast Track allows our higher education institutions to become more accessible to Missourians and ensures students have the opportunity to gather the necessary education and training to fill high demand jobs.”
The Fast Track financial aid program will target adults working toward degree programs that fill a high-need skills gap. The proposed program would provide tuition assistance in high-demand fields to Missourians who meet the eligibility criteria.
“This program will put Missouri among the leading states that are serious about serving adults,” Commissioner Zora Mulligan said. “It will open doors for an entire segment of the population to get training and participate meaningfully in the workforce.”
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 data puts the median household income for Missouri at $51,713. Additionally, 755,000 Missourians have some college experience but no degree. Fast Track will allow thousands of these Missourians the opportunity to pursue higher education opportunities in high-paying, high-demand fields like advanced manufacturing, computer science, and healthcare, which will achieve greater economic success for their families.
Several business and education leaders testified in support of both bills.
“Businesses in the Kansas City area are in need of skilled workers and Governor Parson’s Fast Track program is an excellent way to answer that need, as well as provide new paths to success for the women and men who will be trained through the program,” Joe Reardon President of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce said. “We appreciate and applaud Governor Parson’s commitment to workforce development.”
“There are very few uses of taxpayer money more likely to break the cycle of poverty or improve economic mobility than higher education,” Shawn Strong President of State Technical College of Missouri said. “Nearly half of State Tech students are able to utilize A+, what many would say is one of the most successful scholarship programs in the country. I believe the Fast Track program has the potential to mirror the success of A+.”
“We appreciate Governor Parson’s significant investment in workforce development through Fast Track,” Brian Millner President and CEO of the Missouri Community College Association said. “Expanding financial assistance for adult learners to receive training in high-demand jobs is an effective measure to enable more Missourians to obtain timely, flexible, and cost-effective skills for occupations that are constantly changing and evolving.”
“The Fast Track program is welcome news for educators and businesses, as well as for the 755,000 Missourians who have some college experience but no degree,” Angie Besendorfer Chancellor of Western Governors University Missouri said. “As the demand for an educated workforce grows and the number of available jobs in high-skilled areas rise, it’s vital we do everything possible to increase the number of college-educated Missourians. WGU Missouri is pleased to play a role in reaching this goal, and funds from this grant program can only help in bettering the lives of even more adults across the state.”
“With the expectation of a continued tight labor market, Missouri must extend efforts to equip all workers with the tools they need to reach full potential,” Dan Mehan President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce said. “The Fast Track legislation does that by providing funding that under-skilled adults can use for training to fill high-demand jobs. We applaud Governor Parson and lawmakers for making this legislation a priority.”
Bill summaries and legislative action for Fast Track can be found here:
House Bill 225
Senate Bill 16