Missouri Governor Mike Parson visited Cape Girardeau on Monday, Oct. 21, to push for more workforce development. Parson toured the Buzzi Unicem plant in Cape Girardeau and spoke with managers and workers to learn more about the business.
Parson said the plant, which produces 1.3 million tons of general construction cement annually and has customers in over 20 states, shows the exact type of jobs he would like to help train for through workforce development initiatives.
“I think one of the things we focus on all the time is not everybody needs a diploma or a college degree to be successful,” Parson said. “When you look at a company like this, what their starting pay is and the demand they have for workers, it is the perfect example for what we’re talking about when I try to promote workforce across the state of Missouri.”
Plant Manager Craig Conklin told the governor that employees take part in workforce training through the Mineral Area College and the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center.
He added that the training of future generations was important to their company. Buzzi Unicem took part in a local manufacturing day to show high school students the plant and what careers will be available to them in the future. The plant currently has 182 employees, with an average wage of $30 an hour.
Parson said the biggest problem the state currently faces is making sure the workforce of tomorrow is prepared. “It’s not like you can walk right out of high school and operate this equipment or be in this control room or doing the electrician side,” he said. “You have to have some basic training.”
Infrastructure in the state was also discussed, with Conklin saying the plant was reliant on railways and the river to transport their concrete.
He mentioned that the flooding early this year made it harder for them to transport as much as they could produce.
“Infrastructure and work-force developemnt goes hand in hand,” Parson said. “If you don’t have the infrastructure in place, just like this company right here, they can’t get this product down the road, down the rail.”
Parson said the state “still has a long way to go” in regard with workplace development, with high priorities being placed on infrastructure and convincing students that four-year colleges are not the only option to getting a good job after high school.
During his visit to Cape Girardeau, Parson also spoke to members of the Hawthorn Foundation about workforce development.