- Missouri's Department of Economic Development will launch a collaborative program with the Mid-America Food Hub this month to help incarcerated individuals transition into the workforce with a horticultural professional training program. The initiative, which will enroll 24 apprentices who are approaching release from the Southeast Correctional Facility, will offer pre-employment curriculum delivered jointly by Three Rivers Community College and Southeast Missouri State University.
- The program's first year will be funded with a $1.2 million grant from Apprenticeship USA, with future funding to be awarded from resources in the state's workforce development fund. Employers which work with and recruit future employees from the program will also be financial supporters of the initiative.
- The program is expected to be a major contributor to reversing trends of poverty in Missouri's Mississippi County. Unemployment in the region doubles the national average at just over 10 percent, and poverty rates for African Americans (60%) nearly double the rate for white residents in the area.
The Missouri program is the kind of public/private partnership model that can provide funding and support to extend academic programs beyond campus borders. The federal government has taken a particular interest in promoting universities that commit to addressing socio-economic issues, and reducing recidivism through education is one of those areas. Reducing poverty, which is more of an issue to be addressed by cities and states, is an issue that can create social identity for academic programs, executive branding and campus outreach efforts.
All these efforts capture interest from advocates who see education as a tool for social and economic empowerment, especially for disadvantaged communities. Tapping into this interest can be a powerful path to gaining new donors, engaging with current philanthropists, and commanding a broader audience with lawmakers who want to see colleges and universities to more to demonstrate their value to taxpayers.