(Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)


When I drive around Springfield and the surrounding areas, I see marketing signs advertising for employees. Some signs provide bonuses, many signs reflect pay above minimum wage, and other signs promote on-the-job training. A talented workforce continues to be a need in the area as well as across the nation.

However, Springfield and the state of Missouri have options for employers to strengthen their talent base and hire local students to fill vacant positions.

Springfield Public Schools (SPS), Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) and the state of Missouri have several programs geared toward creating a systematic approach for future employees, combined with careers and college. Other higher education establishments have great programs, too. However, today’s focus is for youth and how employers can design a recruitment and hiring system to work best for their needs.

SPS partners with many business and higher education establishments. Through partnerships, the student’s needs and employer’s needs can be combined to recruit, hire and retain well-qualified employees.

OTC Middle College designed for students with unique life circumstances

OTC has a Middle College program designed to train, develop and provide professionalized certifications for students in support of their future career opportunities. The program is a scholarship-based program provided by different school districts and OTC. Students receive free college tuition, textbooks, and other services when they are admitted and enrolled in the program. All SPS students are eligible to enroll, and outlying area schools can request to be considered and should contact their school counselor. OTC has several other programs geared towards adult learners’ success in college.

The OTC Middle College program is designed for students with unique life circumstances that require flexible hours to complete their course of study. Students attend high-school full time on the OTC campus, while taking college courses during their junior and senior years of high school. Through this pathway, students explore a variety of careers and technical fields like culinary arts, computer science, graphic design, and much more. These students are very employable with their learned academic and social skills as part of the OTC Middle College curriculum.

OTC also partners with rootEd Alliance, a collaborative philanthropic effort dedicated to clearing a path for students in rural America to have a stronger future. The program helps more students from rural areas pursue and complete postsecondary education, which includes two-year and four-year institutions, technical schools and the military, all options prepared for the workforce. OTC established a persistence and navigation program for students in the rootEd program to have a dedicated contact person while in the program. These programs include collaborations with employers.

The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce continues to work with employers to help them to understand more about Missouri’s Registered Youth Apprenticeship Program.  This program allows students from across the state to participate in a structured program combined with school-based and work-based learning.

Hands-on training — and a paycheck, too

Currently, Springfield does not have any registrations in this program. The exciting part of this program is the dual role — students prepare for careers while also providing Missouri with highly skilled and a technology competitive workforce. The benefit for students to enter this program includes development of essential skills with experience for a future full-time career. The program combines high school curriculum with hands-on training from a local employer — and the student earns a paycheck!

Educators benefit from the program  because they are preparing the next generation of workers by partnering with local businesses. The school district can become and additional learning environment for students by  enhancing academic success with desires and needs of the students.  For businesses, they can develop students now and well-trained to join their company upon graduation. Employers can also think of future skill needs and start developing and preparing students now. Businesses can hire students ages 16 and 17  for these programs. Employers can start small with just one student and see how the program works for them.

Through SPS community partnerships, OTC programs, the Chamber and local employers, these options could help with talent recruitment and retention.

Francine Pratt

Francine Micheline Pratt serves as director of Prosper Springfield, a community collective impact model charged with oversight of community goals to reduce the poverty rate and increase postsecondary educational attainment. She is president of Pratt Consultants LLC, which focuses on community engagement, business infrastructure development, conflict resolution, strategic planning, and diversity training. She also is a creative partner for the Queen City Soul Kitchen restaurant. Email: prattconsultants@yahoo.com More by Francine Pratt