Parson hails Jostens expansion, teacher externship bill at Sedalia event

Gov. Mike Parson traveled to Sedalia Tuesday to announce an expansion of Jostens, a yearbook manufacturer, and sign a bill that aims to improve workforce development.

Minneapolis-based Jostens will invest $1.85 million in a new facility in Sedalia and create 20 new jobs, according to a release from Parson’s office.

“Jostens’ job growth and investment in Sedalia proves its commitment to the people and to the community,” Parson said in the release. “Today is a great day for Sedalia.”

After outgrowing other locations, Jostens will be consolidating its operations into a larger facility in Sedalia.

“We’re extremely grateful and excited to see a local employer like Jostens choose to invest in our community,” Sedalia Mayor Pro Tem Don Meier said in the release.

Parson also signed House Bill 1415, an omnibus workforce development bill.

Among other things, the bill allows teachers to count hours spent at externships as professional development. During externships, teachers shadow community businesses in order to learn about local industries.

In the St. Joseph School District, externships are already counted as professional development, according to Marlie Williams, the district’s assistant superintendent of academic services.

Williams said that Missouri school districts are required to spend 1 percent of their state-allocated funding on professional development, which could be fulfilled through conferences, seminars, guest speakers or a number of other formats.

“The real idea is for the teachers to identify the skills and competencies that are needed to be successful within those businesses,” Williams said. Then, during the school year, teachers look for ways to bring them into the classroom.

Last summer, 14 teachers from Williams’ district each spent four half-days completing an externship at a local business. Teachers from elementary, middle and high schools participated, including special education teachers.

“We can know what the outsides of all of the businesses in our town look like,” Williams said, “but until we get ourselves inside, we don’t have the capacity to build future employees for those companies.”

The district is continuing its teacher externships with a local hospital, an animal health science lab and several other businesses. This year they’ve added Altec, a manufacturing company.

A goal of the externship program, Williams said, is finding ways for students to secure quality employment locally. Sometimes, Williams said, educators may not know about “high-demand, highly skilled jobs that are not being filled within the community — that don’t require college.”

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