The leaders of Nichols Career Center hope Gov. Mike Parson's focus on workforce development includes a place for the Jefferson City career center, but what role the high school program may play is complicated by limited resources.
Parson this year ordered reorganizations to several state government agencies to prioritize economic and workforce development. Two of the changes were to move the Division of Workforce Development and the Missouri Economic and Research Center from the Department of Economic Development to the Department of Higher Education.
"This is a fundamental reset in the way Missouri approaches economic development and workforce development," Higher Education Commissioner Zora Mulligan said.
"This is a strategic realignment of resources (that) allows us to focus a single agency's efforts on everything the state of Missouri does to help people get a job after high school," Mulligan added.
"It's just going to validate and justify what we do even more," Nichols Director Sharon Longan said of Parson's focus on workforce development, adding maybe some doors will open that the career center has been knocking on for a long time.
"Making sure we educate people about our mission/vision" is what Longan meant by what kind of doors have been knocked on.
Nichols leaders hope the governor's focus "opens some mindsets" that the career path straight into the workforce or through a two-year technical college after high school is as valid as getting a four-year degree, she said.
Longan was encouraged by Parson's appointment of Donald Claycomb to the State Board of Education in August 2018. Claycomb retired as president of State Technical College of Missouri in June 2016, and his background includes work with the State Council on Vocational Education.
Longan said Claycomb "is the face and voice of CTE" — career and technical education.
Nichols Assistant Director Cody Bashore hopes any stigma about career education is going away. Bashore will become director of Nichols after Longan retires this June.
Funding sources for Nichols
Given the renewed interest in workforce development, could adult education have a place at Nichols as it did decades ago?
"I think there's always a possibility," Bashore said, but he added a lot of state funding for adult education just isn't available anymore.
A return of adult education programming to Nichols will not be a reality unless local resources are allocated for it, Longan said. If the community wants it, she said, then the district would be hearing about it more — and Nichols currently does not have the space or personnel for adult education programming.
Longan was not able to provide an analysis of the percentage of Nichols' funding that is state- or federally sourced compared to locally sourced.
"Federal money is allocated funds, while state funding may be from requested 'grant' funding, and then there is also some allocated funding. The allocations are based on different parameters, and yes, they have changed over time. And how funds are allocated has changed recently, along with the accountability piece. This would be an area I would need to get our central office business office to help compile," she wrote in an email.
"The majority of our funding support comes from local funds and is supplemented by state and federal funds. We take advantage of grant-writing opportunities to maximize our local dollars every chance we can," she added.
One of those funding sources is area high schools — or sending schools — that pay to send their students to Nichols.
Nichols accepts students from 11 Mid-Missouri high schools, from the school districts of Blair Oaks, California, Fatima, Jamestown, Jefferson City, New Bloomfield, Russellville, South Callaway and Southern Boone and the private Calvary Lutheran and Helias Catholic high schools.
Longan said slots are offered to schools based on a formula of their total school enrollment.
"Therefore, Jefferson City, who is our largest sending school, receives the largest slot allotment," she said. "Basically, half of our Nichols enrollment is Jefferson City High School students. JC has all of our afternoon slots. With Capital City High School coming on board, we will be recalculating the Jefferson City slots to be split between the two schools."
Capital City High School is planned to open in August for its first freshmen and sophomore students.
Blair Oaks R-2 school district's Superintendent Jim Jones said his district pays $1,550 per student "for (a) traditional Nichols program."
State and federal funding sources
Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recommended $22 million be allocated to distribute statewide to schools for career education in the 2020 fiscal year, and Parson and the House of Representatives have agreed with that budget line item.
The Legislature has to debate the state's proposed budget, and if or when it's approved before May 10, Parson also has to OK it.
Longan and Bashore did say Nichols has gotten more federal funding.
"We've had a bit of an increase in our Perkins funding," Longan said.
The federal Perkins funding can be used for professional development, equipment and supplies, Bashore said.
President Donald Trump's administration announced in July that Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act funding had been reauthorized, after having been "stalled for years due to policy disagreements," according to a White House statement.
"Perkins CTE programs authorize more than $1 billion for states each year to fund vocational and career-focused education programs," the White House statement noted. " These programs will benefit secondary and post-secondary students across America who utilize CTE programs to gain the skills and knowledge needed for rewarding careers."
Beyond adult education programming, apprenticeships and other kinds of agreements with community partners could be another avenue of expanded workforce development efforts for Nichols.
"To date, we don't have any apprenticeships," Longan said of something else Nichols could look into as part of expanded workforce development efforts.
Her goal would be for Nichols to see if apprenticeships are feasible. She said Nichols' recent articulation agreement with the Sheet Metal Workers' Local 36 union is a step in that direction.
That articulation agreement allows for students who complete Nichols' building trades, welding or heating, ventilation and air conditioning programs to earn up to 500 hours of on-the-job training credit toward the Local 36's Apprenticeship Training Program.
Five hundred hours of credit puts an apprentice halfway to his or her first pay raise at 1,000 hours.
Bashore has been Nichols' internship coordinator, but he explained an apprenticeship is "more of a training plan" toward guaranteed employment.
Local 36 apprentices work to become journeymen after 10,000 hours of on-the-job training — with pay raises at every 1,000 hours completed — and 720 hours of classroom training.
Longan said Nichols would need a business partner for an apprenticeship, and the number of students who could actually do an apprenticeship is slim — students would have to work at the facility of their apprenticeship over the summer and after school, and most participants have to be 18 years old.