Gov. Parson announces state's Fast Track Program at MSU-West Plains

WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- Missouri Governor Mike Parson visited Missouri State University- West Plains Friday afternoon to announce the launch of the state's new Fast Track Workforce Incentive Program.

The new financial program for adults will look to address workforce needs by helping adults 25 and older who have not been enrolled in any school within the last two years and who make less than $40,000 a year, a chance to get a degree, certificate or industry-recognized credential to fill highly-skilled jobs in Missouri.

"We know the demand is out there for those jobs, Gov. Parson told KY3. So to give them the set of skills they need and to be able to work with the universities to be able to have the same focus as we do at the government level. It's just a huge opportunity. I think this is going to be a game changer for the state of Missouri in how we meet the workforce demands of tomorrow."

The grant will cover any remaining tuition and fees not covered by other state and federal student aid programs.

Zora Mulligan, the Commissioner of Higher Education for Missouri, says many folks especially in rural Missouri cannot afford to attend a four year institution.

"We have to remember that there are other opportunities that need to be available as well. That's those certificate programs, apprenticeships, things that provide opportunities to students who might learn a different way or might have a different style than those who are going to succeed in a bachelor's degree program," Mulligan explained.

In West Plains, the Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology or GOCAT, provides the training for programs covered in the Fast Track Program.

"We have advanced manufacturing, or maybe industrial maintenance. We have alternative energy, technology management, technology in general, as well as healthcare," MSU-West Plains' Roy Crouch said.

GOCAT has tailored programs to fit what employers in the greater West Plains area are specifically asking for.

"It's a win-win situation. Not only will it make a difference for the people of the community but it specifically makes a difference for the employers because the employers are in need of people with skills," Crouch added.

Students must maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA and maintain Missouri residency and work in the state for at least three years following graduation or the grant becomes a loan with interest.

27 colleges and universities across the state have programs for the Fast Track Program.

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