Missouri's Innovation Campus will speed up job creation
The Kansas City Star
Imagine students being able to complete their bachelor’s degrees in under three years — and graduate debt-free.
Imagine schools providing focused study, from middle school through college, which prepares students today for careers of tomorrow.
Imagine a campus where students get academic credit — and real-world training — in state-of-the-art facilities supported by companies on the leading edge of science and technology.
This bold new vision for the future of higher education is taking shape today through the Innovation Campus of the University of Central Missouri. The campus is the result of an unprecedented partnership between the university, Lee’s Summit School District, Metropolitan Community College, local businesses, community leaders and the state.
This initiative could not come at a more critical time.
Today’s students face a rapidly evolving, technology-driven global economy. Before the end of this decade, the majority of all jobs in the United States will require some kind of higher education.
To compete successfully for the best jobs in the new economy our children will need higher education and training that is focused, efficient — and affordable. That’s especially true in fields like science, engineering, technology and health care, where rapid job growth already exists.
But the current business model for higher education is not keeping pace. The rising cost of higher education is pushing a college degree out of reachfor many.
Students who graduate are often saddled with thousands of dollars of debt. That makes it harder for them to purchase cars and homes, and keep our economy moving forward.
At the same time, companies in high-growth sectors need a highly skilled workforce to grow, innovate and compete. But here, as in many parts of the nation, the gap between skills needed in the workforce and skills graduates possess, impedes growth.
By leveraging public and private resources, the Innovation Campus holds tremendous potential to boost economic development.
Here’s how it will work.
Starting this fall, the program will enroll up to 30 high school juniors at Summit Technology Academy, a pre-professional technical school that serves students from 16 area high schools. They’ll be prepared to study science and technology at the college level and sharply reduce the time it takes to earn their degrees. With opportunities to take dual-credit courses at Metropolitan Community College, Advanced Placement, and other programs, students can earn college credits while still in high school.
Students will also be placed in apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs with local business partners including Cerner, Exergonix Inc., DST and Sprint. That provides students the opportunity to hone their problem-solving skills in a real-world setting. My administration is supporting this unprecedented partnership with a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to fund apprenticeships, training and educational opportunities.
To participate, business partners must commit to creating new jobs. Innovation Campus students would be highly trained candidates for these new positions, once they’ve completed their bachelor’s degrees and apprenticeship training.
Beginning Thursday, my administration will make an additional $10 million available in competitive grant funds to adapt the Innovation Campus model across Missouri. I encourage private businesses and all Missouri public colleges and universities to look for ways to adapt the lessons across our state.
As governor, I’m committed to making college education more affordable and accessible to more families, to training Missourians for the jobs and careers of tomorrow, and to growing our economy.
The Innovation Campus is a bold idea whose time is now.
Jay Nixon is governor of Missouri.