In honor of Economic Development Week, the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council is celebrating the contributions economic development organizations (EDO) make to their communities. One of the key roles of an EDO is to attract and grow existing businesses. When companies look to relocate or expand, one of the top considerations is access to a highly-skilled workforce. That is why LSEDC devotes great attention to strengthening the talent pipeline in the city.
Lee’s Summit is home to a robust education ecosystem. Not only does it have one of the highest-performing public school districts in the state, it also has top tier private schools, a junior college and a four-year university satellite campus.
“As a community, we have access to desirable amenities, which is a draw for those highly-educated workers,” said Tina Chace, LSEDC Director of Business Development. “Also, having institutions at all of the different levels of education gives us multiple opportunities to have a hand in shaping the upcoming workforce to meet industry demands.”
The LSEDC takes an active role in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District (LSR-7). Currently, Chace is part of the district’s Business Roundtable, Career Advisory Team and the Secondary Expansion Team. The Secondary Expansion Team is working on a competitive bid for a grant from the Kauffman Foundation. In order to qualify, the district must create real-world learning opportunities for every student. Throughout the proposal process, Chace has offered business perspective in the expectations and coordination of student opportunities. If the grant is awarded, the LSEDC will play an integral role in achieving the real-world learning benchmark by representing the business community and offering opportunities for the district to connect with industry leaders.
“The LSEDC has been instrumental in collaborating with the LSR7 school district, specifically in the area of workforce development. Both Rick McDowell and Tina Chace have actively participated in the district’s Real World Learning initiative supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. This work is designed to foster meaningful K-12 experiences, provide students the opportunity to take risks, and expand career paths through the connection between education and business. The LSEDC has connected local businesses with the school district, as well as connecting students with employment opportunities,” said Dr. Emily Miller, Interim Superintendent of the LSR-7 School District.
Connecting businesses and education partners is a role that the LSEDC is already familiar with. In 2019, Chace helped organize multiple workforce exposure opportunities for LSR-7 students. This included a visit to the St. Louis – Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, where students learned about the union’s paid training program. In addition, the LSEDC has hosted National Manufacturing Day Events for several years. The event is meant to educate high school students about modern manufacturing and eliminate the stigma of the manufacturing industry.
In addition, LSEDC works closely with Summit Technology Academy (STA). For 20 years, STA has worked to give high school students real-world learning opportunities with companies. By partnering with the University of Central Missouri and Metropolitan Community College – Longview, STA is also able to offer students college credit while they are in high school. Some participants in STA’s Missouri Innovation Campus program receive enough college credits to enter college at the junior level. Along the way, LSEDC assists in facilitating connections that help students stand out in the workforce.
“STA has benefited from the relationship with LSEDC the most through LSEDC bringing business leaders and HR professionals to the table to discuss workforce development needs as STA creates programs that solve career needs for students and workforce demand needs,” said Jeremy Bonnesen, Principal of STA. “Additionally, LSEDC has helped STA better learn how to engage industry partners and gain more visibility with local industry leaders.”
Chace serves on the STA Alliance Board and its Avionics Advisory Board, but her work is not limited to board involvement.
Recently, LSEDC collaborated with Saint Luke’s Health System, STA and the University of Central Missouri to fill a workforce need for healthcare IT training.
“What they found is that many of the workers who graduated from other institutions were not necessarily prepared for the job,” said Chace. “Part of my role in the community is understanding what skills gaps exist in our workforce, and then communicating that to education partners. Because of the relationships I have built with businesses and education, I am in a position to bridge that gap and connect the two, so that they can begin working on solutions that make students better-prepared to meet industry demands.”
After the hospital approached Chace for assistance in creating a modernized training program, she connected hospital leaders to individuals at STA and UCM to devise a curriculum.
“UCM and LSEDC are constantly communicating and relaying information between the two organizations, so that we can keep Lee’s Summit and the surrounding areas at the forefront of economic development opportunities and regional initiatives,” said Joe Mullins, Workforce and Professional Education at the University of Central Missouri.
LSEDC is also involved in community efforts to strengthen workforce throughout the region. In addition to the City of Lee’s Summit’s Collaborative Relations with Education Partners C-4 Committee, Chace also serves on the Mid-America Regional Council’s Regional Workforce Intelligence Network.
“While we definitely want to provide ample opportunity for Lee’s Summit residents, we also know that our city does not exist in a vacuum,” said Chace. “Data shows us that Lee’s Summit businesses also draw talent from communities throughout our region. So because we want businesses in our city to thrive, it’s important to support those regional workforce initiatives as well.” Whether it is supporting regional efforts or directly working with education partners, the LSEDC works to serve as the connector that bridges the gap between industry and education. The talent pipeline that Lee’s Summit has built through its community partnerships make Lee’s Summit’s education ecosystem a unique attraction for companies looking to expand or relocate.