Lincoln County’s students will soon have the opportunity to get the training they need to land high-paying jobs for a better future.

On Wednesday, a two-year plan became reality when the ground was broken on the Lincoln County Workforce Development Center in a ceremony attended by Gov. Mike Parson, state representatives, Ranken Technical College staff and Lincoln County R-III School District staff members.

“If there’s anything these last few months have taught me, it’s that classrooms are changing,” said Dr. Margie Vandeven, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education commissioner. “Students take different pathways to succeed, and this (workforce center) is another pathway to that success.”

“I think God gave everyone a gift, and through this school, they’ll be able to realize those gifts – and turn them into jobs,” said Rep. Randy Pietzman, R-Troy.

Parson said building the facility is extremely important, not just for Lincoln County, but for the state as well.

“If we’re really going to make Missouri better, we have to develop workforce development,” he said. “If we don’t do that, someone else will.”

In a partnership with Lincoln County R-III, the City of Troy, Ranken and Lincoln County, the facility will be the first workforce development center in the area. Four programs will be offered: building and construction trades, agriculture and aquaponics, renewable energy and advanced manufacturing,

Ranken President Don Pohl and Ranken Board of Trustees Chairman Jeff Pitts each said the county is committed to career and technical education as an avenue to workforce development, and called the center a “gift” to the county and its residents.

“I’m excited to be partnering with such a forward-thinking school district led by (Superintendent) Mark Penny,” Pohl said. “Students will have the opportunity to earn high school and college credits at the same time.”

“Whether you’re a politician, whether you’re a businessman, or whether you’re a politician or a member of the chamber of commerce, this is a gift,” Pitts said. “If you’re a student, this is an opportunity.

“This is an opportunity to succeed.”

The Missouri State House of Representatives and the State Senate each allocated $500,000 to Lincoln County for workforce development. The county has also committed $100,000 per year for the next three years to support the staffing of the facility, and the project may be supported by up to 80% reimbursement through a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant.

“Individuals will always have a need for high-paying jobs, and workforce development will always be needed to create the educational programs to help get them there,” said Steve Castaner from the Economic Development Administration’s Denver Regional Office. “We consider this a gift to be part of this reality.”

Parson hopes building the Lincoln County Workforce Development Center will go a long way to keeping the county’s best and brightest in the area – and the state.

“We have to keep our high school kids in Missouri (after they graduate),” he said. “My kids were fortunate to stay here, but I have six grandchildren now, and I don’t know what the future holds for them.

“I want the jobs to be available, so they can stay in Missouri.”