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Sen. Blunt Calls For More Job Training, Increased Trade Outside China

St. Charles convention center
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt gives a speech in St. Charles on Friday during the annual Governor's Conference on Economic Development.

ST. CHARLES — U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt wants to increase job training programs in the state and seek more foreign trade partners.

The Republican Missouri senator spoke about jobs and the economy Friday at the 61st annual Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in St. Charles.

More than ever, Blunt said he’s seeing employers across Missouri focus on job training. Blunt said he has been hosting roundtables with bosses throughout the state for about a year.

“There is a desire to get people to work, but there’s also a desire to get people ready for the jobs we have,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job earlier of creating a sense of what kind of jobs are out there.”

Blunt said that means advocating for apprenticeships and other skills training programs. Workforce development has also been a priority for Gov. Mike Parson.

“I’m not opposed to a traditional four-year degree at all, but I think we have erred on the side of that being often the only path people are talking about,” Blunt said. 

Trade war

Despite some farmers losing patience with the trade war with China, Blunt said he doesn’t expect President Donald Trump to back down on tariffs with the country any time soon.

And he said it’s likely Chinese officials will stall talks until after the next presidential election. 

“In all likelihood it’s going to go on for a while, so we need to be even more focused on opening other markets,” Blunt said. “I would like to have seen us stay in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which among other things would have created a real competitor for China in their own back door.”

Moving forward, he said the best option is to strengthen trade relationships with Mexico and Canada — while opening markets in Japan and Australia. 

He said there is enough opportunity in other markets to offset the cost of the trade war with China.

Gun violence

Following the event, Blunt addressed the escalating gun violence in St. Louis that’s taken the lives of more than a dozen children since the start of the year.

Blunt described the shootings as tragic. He said the answer to reducing gun violence is increasing access to mental health care and destigmatizing the use of those services.

“Kids growing up in violent situations tends to perpetuate itself. I’m doing everything I can to see that we’re addressing the mental health issues like all other health issues,” he said. “That’s where I’m going to spend my time.”

Blunt added that just because someone has a mental health issue doesn’t mean they’re dangerous and that they still have Second Amendment rights. 

This week, Parson called for work to reduce gun violence at the federal, state and local levels, although he continues to reject calls for a special legislative session on the issue.

The governor said Thursday he plans to find resources in his job training program to fund public safety matters and bring the Missouri Highway Patrol to roadways to free up St. Louis police to investigate recent killings.

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

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Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.