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Local Job Training Program Hopes to Advance Job Retention, Lower Local Poverty Rate

Sean Hagen

A new job-training academy in southwest Missouri targets skills needed for job retention and advancement.

Change One Thousand Skills Academy, set to launch February 8, is a five-week program created by the City of Springfield Department of Workforce Development. Josh Klein, project coordinator for the city, said the program will focus on teaching soft skills. Those include competent communication, work ethic, organization, punctuality and emotional intelligence, according to Klein.

The need for this kind of training was shown in the MOmentum State of the Workforce Survey, conducted annually by the Department of Workforce Development. Klein said five-hundred employers were surveyed this past year on their hiring process and what they expect of qualified candidates. 

“And in 2017, the results showed that 85 percent of employers (surveyed) said that at least some of their employees could benefit from some sort of soft skills training,” Klein said. “So that’s obviously a huge gap and we realized we needed to do something to fill that.”

Klein said he hopes, by teaching soft skills, more people will keep jobs, and poverty rates will decrease. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 25 percent of individuals living in Springfield fell below the poverty line in 2016.

The program is open to anyone in Christian, Dallas, Greene, Polk, Stone, Taney and Webster Counties. But Klein said the program will be specifically targeting areas with high unemployment, like Springfield’s Zone 1.

“We know there are individuals in Zone 1 who are looking for work, and we also know there are individuals in Zone 1 who are underemployed and are looking for new opportunities,” he said.

Training will take place at Central Assembly of God’s Fusion Center at 1320 N. Campbell Ave. Participants will commit 38 total hours to training over six weeks’ time. For the first four weeks, training will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The rest of the training will include an assessment, graduation and a chance to meet with potential employers.

Klein said the first round of training will focus on the manufacturing industry. The curriculum is based on feedback from local manufacturing employers about what soft skills they need their employees to have.

“And you know, what better way to go out and get a job with one of these employers than to say, ‘hey, I just completed the training that you said you needed,’” Klein said.

Klein said no one is guaranteed a job after completing the program.  However, the chance for graduates to sit down with employers as part of the training could lead to job opportunities.

Change One Thousand is a community effort. Klein said the Department of Workforce Development is currently looking for mentors to match with Change One Thousand participants.

“We’ve realized, also through research, that mentorship is a huge component of somebody successfully overcoming their barriers and completing a training such as this one,” Klein said. “So having mentors — maybe retirees from the community — serve as a mentor … we would always appreciate that."

Potential Change One Thousand participants can apply online at or in person at Springfield-Greene County Library branches or at the Missouri Job Center locations in the Southern Hills Shopping Center, 2900 E. Sunshine, and in the Cox North Medical Tower, 1443 N. Robberson.