Home » News » News Item

March 09, 2021

Missouri awarded grant to accelerate COVID-19 workforce recovery efforts

Missouri has been selected as the inaugural cohort of states in the Workforce Innovation Network, the National Governors Association (NGA) and Cognizant U.S. Foundation announced today. The Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development’s Office of Workforce Development will receive a grant to improve employment outcomes in response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, connecting job seekers to training, education, job opportunities and essential support services.

Missouri is one of nine states selected for the inaugural cohort of the Workforce Innovation Network, which is designed to help states build capacity for near-term innovation and longer-term strategies to prepare their workforces for a post-COVID-19 economy. The network serves as a nonpartisan learning and action collaborative for state leaders who have demonstrated strong commitments to building a resilient workforce. In this first round of grants from the Workforce Innovation Fund, states will receive:

  • Support developing a state action plan and policy recommendations to develop or scale innovations that increase employment and deliver stronger workforce outcomes;
  • Up to $100,000 in grant funding to support personnel and project coordination to carry out state innovations; and
  • Virtual or in-person site visits and regular coaching calls from NGA Center staff, as well as national experts and consultants to meet individual state needs and priorities.

The Missouri Office of Workforce Development’s application included a focus on enabling the state to develop an action plan to increase job-seeker engagement in its workforce development programs by 60 percent by 2025.

“Now more than ever, Missouri needs a strong, skilled workforce to move our economy forward. We are honored to be selected as a member of the Workforce Innovation Network, which will build on our efforts to strengthen workforce development and prepare Missouri job seekers for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Gov. Mike Parson.


To receive the grants and qualify as a member of the network, states submitted proposals focused on the creation of new, unified virtual service delivery platforms, digital inclusion and skill development strategies, and equitable access to high-quality work opportunities via the adoption of new state job quality and self-sufficiency standards.

“The effects of the pandemic have been disparate across sectors of society and the workforce, necessitating partnerships among governmental leaders, business and civic communities,” said Timothy Blute, director of the NGA Center.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, January job gains in professional and business services and in both public and private education were offset by losses in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing. These latest trends underscore the importance of breaking down traditional silos in training and service delivery and working collaboratively to advance an equitable and inclusive recovery, particularly for workers in sectors most negatively affected by COVID-19.

“These Workforce Innovation Fund grants will help the states in this inaugural cohort build on early innovations and expand capacity to coordinate cross-agency economic recovery efforts—we look forward to seeing Missouri’s accomplishments,” said Kristen Titus, executive director of Cognizant U.S. Foundation.

In the coming months, the network will gather governors, states and external partners to learn more about how states are aligning their reskilling, reemployment and recovery strategies with longer-term trends and the future of work.

About the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development: The department works to empower Missourians with the skills and education needed for success. More information about MDHEWD can be found at https://dhewd.mo.gov or on Facebook and Twitter @MoDHEWD.