Training Missouri's Workforce For The Post-Pandemic Era Will Mean Big Changes | St. Louis Public Radio

Training Missouri's Workforce For The Post-Pandemic Era Will Mean Big Changes

May 19, 2020

Students participating in LaunchCode's CoderGirl program demonstrate the need for innovation in workforce training.
Credit Courtesy of LaunchCode

More than 260,000 Missourians filed claims showing they were unemployed as of May 2. It’s a staggering number, and it’s likely only to grow.

For Jeff Mazur, executive director of the tech training nonprofit LaunchCode, the numbers are a wakeup call. In his view, workforce training programs have failed to keep up with the realities of the modern workplace.

As one example, Mazur points to the local job training programs funded through the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act program. Workers seeking to learn what opportunities they’re eligible for have generally been required to show up for an in-person conversation at a job center, he explained on St. Louis on the Air.   

“When we think about every other aspect of searching for a job, and getting job skills in 2020, it doesn’t really match up,” Mazur said. “People are used to going out there and finding what jobs are available, and once they’ve found a job that they see is available or has a posting up, they’ll apply online. And oftentimes people are used to getting skills themselves via online training services.

“And while all that has happened over the course of the last decade and become very common, we still have public workforce development services that are provided in a way that doesn’t really match up to the rest of what we see out there,” he added.

Listen: 

Along with state Sen. Brian Williams, D-Ferguson, Mazur discussed the idea that the need for innovation has become much more urgent due to the changes wrought by the coronavirus.

Some studies suggest that automation and artificial intelligence were poised to replace numerous workers even before the pandemic. Now that companies also fear the spread of disease, and their liability if it happens in a workplace setting, that economic transformation is likely only to increase.

Williams said the impact of that on his constituents is something he thinks about “all the time.”

“As we pay attention to what companies are doing throughout the world, China for example, they have already moved in the direction of automation,” he said. “It’s gonna force businesses to recalibrate, [and] various industries to move in directions that may create more space for robots and less human interaction and work. That’s something we have to prepare for in the state of Missouri.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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