The Northland Education and Business Alliance (NEBA) hosted the new leader of the Mid-Continent Public Library System Aaron Mason and Business Services Director Anne Wallace, Ed.D., at their May 2 meeting held at iWerx Gladstone.
Mason cited areas where the library serves both education and business needs at 15 locations in Clay and Platte counties, with two more set to open this year. Other services are delivered throughout the region with online programs and outreach. He said healthy libraries usually indicate a healthy economy and educated population.
“When it comes to a healthy economy and innovative region, it comes from things like libraries,” he said.
He pointed to several Mid-Continent programs as evidence – over $2 million each year in business services like data resources, including detailed marketing information that can be used to identify customers. There are also meeting spaces, career services, online training and even business consulting and outreach. Individual branches also offer unique programs, like a “incubator kitchen” that will partner with culinary schools at the new Green Hills Branch. Each library also partners with its local chamber of commerce.
The discussion also included a popular program formerly held jointly by the library system and EDC. Business Boot Camps were conducted annually or even bi-annually. The efforts drew several hundred entrepreneurs and small business owners to the Woodneath Branch near Liberty for each session. EDC Executive Director David Slater noted the popular boot camps had been cancelled during COVID, but he would like to see them return. Mason said that was being discussed.
Still more library efforts include youth services and outreach events. “We work with them a lot,” added Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) Executive Director Brett Kisker.
The second half of the meeting focused on updates in the local education and business communities. A big takeaway was the continued shortage of skilled and technical labor impacting local businesses, even as many young people seeking employment remain jobless because of inadequate basic skills.
Adam Jelenic, HR programs coordinator with LMV Automotive Systems in Liberty, said shortages at his firm continue in both entry level and skilled trades. NEBA Co-Chair Tatia Shelton, who serves as Workforce and Economic Development Workforce Manager with the Metropolitan Community College, also said those with skills are in high demand. She recently observed a class on motor controls technology where most of the students already had jobs lined up for after graduation.
Jelenic said one problem is that some young people don’t want to go through such training. “The challenge we see is people who want to get into skilled trades but don’t want to go through the education,” he said. “With modern electronics and other areas, you have to have the education.”
The group also discussed summer planning meetings and the need for a new co-chair to replace Business Co-Chair Courtney Reyes, whose term expires in July. Reyes is the Government Affairs and Workforce Development Director for the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City.
Founded by the EDC in 2006, NEBA is a network of education and business organizations working in partnership with the region’s economic development professionals to bring awareness of quality education in the Northland to prospective businesses and corporations. NEBA also strives to inform local students, educators and career changers about career opportunities in the area. For more information, visit nebaworkskc.org.