Launch Missouri’s Workforce: Partners for Performance
“Our job is to help Missourians go to work and stay in work,” says Dr. Mardy Leathers, Missouri’s Director of Workforce Development. In addition to working with education partners at both the secondary and post-secondary levels, Leathers’s department leads the state’s apprenticeship programs, designs on-the-job training opportunities and continually works with employers to develop lifelong learning practices that skill up the existing workforce. “One of our big priorities right now is connecting more youth to the workforce,” Dr. Leathers says. And that is where the state’s recently announced partnership with Launch—and the development of Launch Missouri’s Workforce—comes into play.
While Launch Virtual Learning will be responsible for the design, development and delivery of the virtual courses that make up the state-identified career pathways (see pathway industries on p. 22-23), state funding will aid a number of students in participating. “We hope to serve about 1,500 students a year as this is being built out, and then as many as 2,000 students a year in perpetuity,” Dr. Leathers says. “The goal is that these students can receive an industry-recognized credential in addition to completing their coursework. So regardless if they’re going on to college or straight to work or to an apprenticeship program, we’re helping them become more marketable.”
The state’s decision to join forces with Launch on this project was based on a multitude of factors. “We’re thrilled to partner with the Launch program because number one, you have a proven framework,” Dr. Leathers says. “Also, the fact that you’re a Missouri-based and developed program ensures alignment to our state’s learning standards.” Launch currently holds partnerships with 372 school districts statewide, which also helped. “There are so many districts all over the state that use Launch already,” Dr. Leathers says. “We feel that you can help us reach a market and a population that we haven’t been able to reach in the past. The innovation, work and expertise of Launch and Springfield Public Schools is a great fit. We’re really excited to get this going and make it available for students all across the state.”