Archive for Regional Growth – Page 3

First tri-state Work Ready region emerges

Tri-State Marker of Missouri, Kansas, and OklahomaContinuing the legacy of firsts for regional workforce innovation, the Joplin Tri-State Region is the first in the nation to achieve Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC) status that crosses the borders of three different states with the attainment by Ottawa County.  As investors often put their top priorities on workforce, having CWRC is a big step for the Joplin labor market that pivots outward from the Tri-State Marker (pictured right) of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Ottawa County celebrated its new status at a reception August 11th in Miami that KODE-TV profiled in its evening newscast. Planning is underway for CWRC ceremonial events in McDonald and Labette Counties that also hit the 100% goal mark.  Lawrence County leaders held their celebration June 9th in Aurora (pictured below).

lawrence county C.W.R.C. june 2016We are excited to officially become an ACT Work Ready Community,” said Shannon Walker, director of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and head of the local CWRC initiative. “Lawrence County has much to offer businesses that are already established in our area, and now this addition strengthens the county’s workforce and economic opportunities.”

Interstate 44, which runs through Lawrence, Jasper, Newton, and Ottawa Counties, is a big advantage economically because it means easy access for businesses to be able to move products by truck from one area to another. The CWRC designation complements local efforts to further develop and grow the region’s transportation and logistics sectors.

The ceremony was held at the Aurora Community Center, with many supporters of CWRC efforts in attendance. Just a few supporting employers include AFB International, Service Vending Company, T&C Stainless, BCP Ingredients, Inc., Kemin Nutrisurance, Teletech, Jack Henry & Associates and more.  Watch the full Lawrence County CWRC ceremony online at

As illustrated in the map (below) of counties served by the WIB and the Joplin Regional Partnership, Dade is the only remaining county to achieve CWRC.  The latest results show Dade at 78% of the CWRC goal.  WIB officials anticipate Dade County’s completion by the end of 2016.

C.W.R.C. map of counties

Magazine Showcases Missouri’s CWRC Success

C.W.R.C. Map & LogoJasper County, Missouri, was the first Work Ready Community in the nation, obtaining its work ready status in 2013, and the Joplin metropolitan statistical area was the second MSA in the US to be certified. As noted recently by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, this is all thanks to the leaders of the Workforce Investment Board, and the chambers in Webb City, Carthage, Neosho and Joplin, their members and area schools supporting this endeavor.

But what is a Work Ready Community? The purpose is to align workforce training programs with the economic development needs of communities, matching the appropriate applicants to jobs based on skill level and giving businesses a more quantifiable workforce assessment tool with which to evaluate local labor pools. That means employees and employers win when the properly trained people fill job vacancies.

Site Selection Magazine published an article profiling Missouri’s success with Certified Work Ready Communities. Commending the Show-Me State as one of the most active in the nation, the article included a testimonial from Kingsford Manufacturing.

“To stay competitive today and in the future requires talented and engaged employees who think like business owners and drive continuous improvement,” said Steve Miller, plant manager of Kingsford Manufacturing, on March 18th, when Maries County, south of Jefferson City, in south central Missouri, was certified. “Through the Missouri Career Center and the Work Keys testing program [for earning National Career Readiness Certificates], we’ve been able to find people with the right skills who can help us continue to be a successful operation, great place to work and a strong community partner.”

The article appears in the July 2016 edition of Site Selection Magazine and may be found online at According to the most recent trends by ACT, more than three thousand Missouri employers endorse the National Career Readiness Certificate, a hallmark of CWRC.

Bakery jobs return to Joplin

Less than a year from its closure, a former bakery manufacturing site is coming back to life with 60 new jobs. HS Baking teamed up with Joplin leaders and Gov. Nixon’s office Tuesday to announce the company’s decision to locate its snack and cracker operations in Joplin at its new flagship bakery.

HS Baking’s more than $8 million Joplin expansion project includes the purchase of new equipment and a manufacturing plant that was previously operated by General Mills. Renovations will be underway over the next few months to build and install a new manufacturing line to produce a new line of snack and cracker products. The company will immediately recruit candidates for a variety of positions, including but not limited to, purchasing manager, plant engineer, packaging operators, oven and dough machine operators, and other office and warehouse positions.

“Our whole team is excited to come to Joplin and kick the factory into high gear with the help of members of the Joplin community,” said HS Baking Plant Manager Max Jones.

“This facility has a nearly 70-year history of baking quality products, and it is wonderful to see it coming back into operation so quickly after it was shut down,” said Joplin Mayor Mike Seibert. “We appreciate HS Baking for its investment in Joplin and for its sincere recognition of the proud history of this facility and its people.”

In addition to supplying valuable labor market research to support job creation in the Joplin region, a team from the Workforce Innovation Board conducted extension outreach before and after the company announcement to help ramp up recruitment efforts. The WIB helped organize a job fair for HS Baking at the Joplin Job Center. The event runs 4 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 20th and 1o to 2 on Thursday, the 21st.

“Investments by great companies like HS Baking are the reason why Missouri leads the Midwest in manufacturing growth and our unemployment rate has been below the national average for more than two years,” Gov. Nixon said Tuesday at the press conference. “Missouri makes what the world wants, and we are proud to partner with HS Baking as they create new jobs right here in Joplin.”

This is the second major food operation expansion for Joplin in recent years, coming just two years after Heartland Pet Foods Manufacturing cut the ribbon on its flagship $90 million factory, where today it employs more than 150 full-time employees. Last year, Joplin was selected as the new home of global building manufacturer Owens Corning’s new plant, also a $90 million investment into the community and a projected 100 new jobs.

Media Coverage of HS Baking Investment in Joplin

WorkforceZone 7/16: High Octane Solutions

Workforce Zone July 2016The region’s voice for Workforce Development, WorkforceZone, released its second quarter recap issue with the theme Workforce Strategies Seek High Octane Solutions. The 17-page journal is downloadable as a printer and tablet-friendly PDF. WorkforceZone archives its articles online as well.

New training models lower cost and fill gaps in manufacturing

SR Benefits tablet screen and pie chartInterest and investment continues to grow for the Joplin Region (MO/KS/OK).  Like many vibrant economic regions nationwide, Joplin faces shortages of qualified job candidates to meet demand.  Employers, educators, workforce specialists, and economic developers are joining forces to fill gaps in the pools of entry-level job candidates.  Short-term strategies emphasize real-time, on-demand training and user-friendly credentialing solutions as part of the new SectorReady framework.

Surveys and market studies conducted by the Workforce Innovation Board show urgent needs of the region’s labor market:

  • More than half of employers predict growth, but express major concerns with lack of job candidates (volume) or skills (quality)
  • Nearly ¾ of employers anticipate reduced capacity to serve customers due to skill shortages
  • Half of employers report increases in turnover
  • Nearly half of employers concerned with low employee engagement and morale
  • Specific concerns of a third of employers include lack of experience, technical competencies, and industry-specific qualifications or certifications
  • Unemployment or under-employment still remains in categories such as youth, ex-offenders, welfare recipients, and the disabled

SectorReady™ planners with the WIB and Joplin Regional Partnership drafted a prospectus to launch a Principles Training series to help meet the needs of regional employers.

Solution Requirements for Training and Credentialing

  • Training completed in 5-10 days or less with flexibility of scheduling
  • Unemployed individuals on short periods of public assistance
    • Underemployed individuals needing to complete training while not at work
  • Zero or low cost to participate in training
    • Accessible to individuals in poverty
    • Accessible to individuals not otherwise eligible for public assistance
    • Primary overhead cost limited to testing/credentialing
  • High volume to make significant impact on job candidate pool
  • Credential to validate skill mastery
    • Wide acceptance by employers
    • National portability
    • Option to convert to college credit as evidence of prior learning

Unique Features

  • Employers volunteer to present workshops
  • Direct connection for most up-to-date sector content and examples
  • Ability of volunteer presenters to scout workshop attendees for recruitment based on attendees’ soft skills and engagement levels
  • Participants earn Silver or higher NCRC prior to entry
  • Connect workshop offerings to targeted participant locations
    • Advanced Training/Technology Center (slated to open early 2017)
    • Job Center Locations (SW MO, SE KS, NE OK)
    • Community Partnerships (homeless  shelters, probation/parole, substance abuse recovery, etc.)

Potential Content Targets and Outcomes

  • Safety
  • Industrial Math Applications
  • Basic Communication Skills in Production (and other basic soft skills in demand)
  • Quality Measurement Tools
  • Locating/Document Information (such as Blueprint Reading)
  • Manufacturing Operations

Product/Service Delivery Strengths

  • All training functions available add value and are necessary in specific settings
  • Principles workshops facilitate skill building for entry level employment, but also interface with other training as stackable credentials

Market Potential

  • Under-employed individuals currently seeking advancement
  • Individuals in Poverty
  • Individuals Receiving Public Assistance (TANF, Food Stamps, etc.)
  • Projections of Newly-Released Ex-Offenders
  • Projections of Youth Unemployment
  • Projections of Disabled Individuals Seeking (Re)Employment
  • Growth projections of entry-level production/manufacturing jobs

Next Steps

  • Recruit Employer Champions for Pilots
    • Present concept to focus groups of targeted employers
    • Design curriculum content and delivery
    • Deliver presentations at training events
  • Evaluate and select ideal credentialing framework
  • Alignment with new ACT manufacturing pilot (mid-late 2016)
  • Connect to initiatives that raise awareness of sector opportunities and benefits
  • Family of certifications under National Association of Manufacturers
    • Manufacturing Technician 1 from the Manufacturing Skills Institute
  • Other options
    • ProveIt™
    • OSHA-10
    • NCCER
  • Connect all training, credential, and barrier-removal resources to interactive career pathway system under SectorReady™

Ready to shift your training into high gear?  Get connected as a participating employer with SectorReadyto help build the skills needed to keep local manufacturing strong.  Contact Frank Neely for more information.

Crossland named ACT top employer examplar

Crossland A.C.T. award 2016ACT hosted its fourth annual National Gala on College and Career Readiness in June, the capstone event of a year long campaign to highlight students, schools, and employers for their exceptional achievements and commitment to preparing all individuals for life after high school.  Crossland Construction took top honors nationally as the ACT Employer Exemplar.

Crossland is one of the largest family-owned commercial construction companies in the country and is committed to helping its employees advance in their careers by clearly outlining and supporting their career paths and helping them develop corresponding skills and certifications.

“We actively promote the [ACT WorkKeys] test at all schools and recruiting events. In the 2014–2015 school year, we made funding available to all high schools in Cherokee County, Kansas, to give their seniors the Work Readiness exam,” noted Nathan Kubicek of the Crossland Academy.

Crossland is also a minority-owned business and has 1,100 employees in eight offices across six states in the Midwest and Texas. Since 2004, the company has provided more than 900 internships and over $1 million in tuition assistance to area college students.  Crossland uses the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate™ to identify employees and interns for recruitment and mentoring opportunities.

“As our campaign continues to grow in its fourth consecutive year, we are honored to share these stories and celebrate in the remarkable success of these students, schools and employers,” said Scott Montgomery, ACT vice president of policy, advocacy and government relations. “In their states and across the country, these semifinalists are beacons of possibility for future improvements in college and career readiness.”

A national selection committee comprised of seven education and workforce leaders chose four semifinalists in each of four categories.  Criteria in the employer category included strength of relationships with local colleges and high schools, provision of opportunities for employees to acquire new knowledge and skills, use of career readiness assessments for recruitment and advancement within the company, efforts to create and maintain diversity in the workforce and work done by employer and employees to give back to the local community.

FUEL revs up recruitment, quality of life

fuel communityBy combining high octane resources and strategies, our companies will fuel the future success of the Four States Region through the recruitment and retention of highly-talented fire starters. That’s the opening mission for a group of leading edge employers that formed the FUEL Recruitment and Retention Community.

FUEL is an industry-led initiative to change the perception of the region and to ignite the growth of individual industries by improving the ability to attract and retain top talent.  The Fuel.Community online framework and task force of business and community leaders ignited from two Regional Recruiting Lunch events in April and June hosted by Innovative Objects.

The April kickoff focused on the perceptions of newcomers to the region.  With two presenters and around 25 local leaders, the meeting generated lively feedback, pinpointed concerns, and lifted momentum to change the first impressions of prospective employees and families.   Representatives from companies such as Mercy, Leggett and Platt, Tamko, H.E. Williams, and others reached consensus for additional gatherings and pursuit of solutions.

The June meeting probed deeper into factors affecting the region’s appeal in the three categories of crime rate, school performance, and cultural opportunities.  Three guest speakers specifically addressed these areas. Joplin Police Chief Matt Stewart shared statistics that help debunk the idea that Joplin is an unsafe place to live.  Dr. Norm Ridder shared his strategic plan to make Joplin a premier school district within the next 5 years. And finally, Callie Hudson with the Downtown Alliance shared a vision for what Joplin could be through creative ideas and strategic investment into aesthetics, infrastructure, and culture.

Major themes from the group discussion served as a launch pad for next steps.  Rather than recruiters maintaining individual lists of amenities, stakeholders agreed that a central web gateway would be easier to maintain with up to date information, no broken links, and overall a great resource for people considering a move to the region.

The ideal method to overcome resistance to growth and change is to focus on the common passions of those segments of residents, such as education.  Each community in the region is an essential partner in lifting the region as a whole rather than isolating from one another.  The next meeting of the group seeks to find common language from branding the region.

August is targeted for a final meeting to decide which steps may be committed for moving forward together.  Another key tool for the volunteers is the Fuel.Community website to help pool collective ideas and prompt continued discussion for Fuel stakeholders.  Contact Andrew Jordan by email to or call  417-680-7060.

Public Notice: One-Stop Operator Procurement

Important Update August 10:  With DWD’s Functional Leader policy update now official, the WIB has posted the RFPs online with links from our Notices page.

Important Update July 29: The RFP for One-Stop Operator will be delayed until the official release of MO-DWD Issuance 2016-01 governing the Functional Leader components that the WIB plans to include in the One-Stop Operator contract. DWD anticipates this issuance will be finalized in early August.  

Original Posting June 30th:  Pursuant to the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, the Workforce Investment Board of the Southwest Region, Inc. gives official notice of its intent to procure a one-stop operator.  The provision is contained within the region’s WIOA Plan, posted for public comment on May 19th and approved by the Board on June 21st.  The language is as follows from Section 10-A.

  • Initial implementation of the Next Generation Career Center model included a contracting approach heavily advocated by DWD to utilize leased staffing for the required firewalls to separate the WIB from one-stop/program operations
    • WIB seeks to retain this contracting model as the most cost-effective manner to reduce operational overhead
  • WIB adjusting contract periods to coincide with federal fiscal year to improve funding stability at start of contracts and to prevent disruption in the event that new operators or contractors
  • Desired evaluation criteria for the one-stop operator bids
    • Format and Completeness: Points may be deducted if the proposal submitted does not follow the prescribed format or if other forms are not satisfactorily completed.
    • Qualifications of Proposed One Stop Operator: If Staffing has been determined, provide the qualifications including Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities of the person who will perform the duties of the One Stop Operator.
    • Previous WIOA or Related Experience: Describe all experience you have related to the WIA, WIOA, or other federal or state programs and legislation.
    • Qualification for Staff Management: Explain any qualifications you have regarding supervision, hiring, performance evaluations of employees.
    • Compliance/Quality Assurance Experience: Detail all experience relating to monitoring, auditing, reviewing of federal, state, or local laws and regulations.
    • Capacity to serve as the primary Community/Partner Liaison: Outline the connection to the communities within the Southwest Workforce Development Area in collaboration with the Joplin Regional Partnership.
    • Customer Service: Outline of Business, Job Seeker, and Youth Services
    • Budget: Adhere to proposal requirements and demonstrate alignment of budgeting with WIB priorities

The WIB intends to release a Request for Proposals in August on its notices page. The target date for the board to approve a competitive proposal is September 13th for a contract start date of October 1, 2016. Questions may be directed to Jasen Jones at the WIB.

OneJoplin grows skill strategies to cut poverty

One JoplinLocal non-profit organizations working together under the network of OneJoplin expanded their mission to boost literacy and workforce skills to help those in need overcome poverty.  This move builds on the visionary goals of OneJoplin to create a culture where people want to live/be, as a community of choice where everyone has an opportunity to thrive, and as a community of neighbors that take care of each other.

The Wave 2 inclusion of workforce skill literacy for OneJoplin comes after a half-day meeting of community leaders June 7th and a day-long planning retreat of the steering committee that followed.  The collective revised a vision timeline known as Joplin of Your Dreams with several goals related to literacy and workforce skills.

  • One-Stop family resource center open in 2017
  • 80% of Joplin’s workforce has a post-secondary credential by 2018
  • 95-99% high school graduation rate by 2020
  • Every high school grad has a realistic next step pathway (job, training, military, etc.) by 2020
  • Decrease gaps between state average wage and local averages by 2020

Current work teams for OneJoplin include Health, Human Services, and Poverty.  The Health team focuses on decreasing the percent of obese adults, underage alcohol consumption, and poor mental health.  The Human Services team seeks to lower domestic violence, reduce child abuse and neglect, and improve teen sexual health.  The focus of the poverty team is to increase social capital and community connection, access to affordable housing, and employment availability.

To speak with someone about One Joplin, please reach out to one of the members of the Steering Team or contact Tonya Sprenkle at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce at 417-624-4150.  To see the list of steering committee members or explore additional information, visit

Research highlights success with employing ex-offenders

A person giving handcuff keys to a second person who is wearing handcuffs

With the shrinking labor market, employers are looking at new pools of job applicants. Many employers want to explore utilizing ex-offenders but are not sure where to start or may be nervous about trying something new. The U.S. Military provided a great lab for to prove that ex-offenders can thrive in the workforce.

Presented at an academic conference but not yet peer-reviewed, the evaluation finds that:

  • Individuals who have been arrested for felony-level offenses have similar attrition rates to those with no criminal record.
  • Ex-felons are no more likely to terminate for conduct reasons than their non-felon waiver counterparts.
  • Individuals with felony-level criminal backgrounds are promoted more quickly and to higher ranks than other enlistees.

The report also states that the military’s “whole person” review process is very similar to EEOC guidelines for using an individualized assessment to review applicants with criminal records, and “offers the opportunity for the kind of holistic review that has proved successful in the military context.”

For information on how to connect with the local Re-Entry task force that helps with ex-offender re-employment, contact Kris Baldwin at the WIB by email to or call 417-206-1717, Extension 111.