George Jones was promoting his new ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’ album when he appeared at the inaugural Farm Aid benefit in 1985. Jones sang of the irreplaceability of country music legends, including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams and other icons. As an unabashed country music fan, I usually have a country tune running through my head that I can relate to any situation. George’s Song was playing in my head all day on August 27 during my annual manufacturing tour. Many of the workers I saw that day, especially in high-skill positions, were in their 20’s when that song was released. As I marveled at the welders, tool and die makers and others plying their trades, my thoughts turned to who will replace this workforce that is so close to retirement age. During the tour, I visited Alpine Aviation Group and Dolby Industries in Ozark, Black Widow Bows in Nixa, as well as Stratum Nutrition and H.E. Williams Inc. both located in Carthage. As I spoke to the many hardworking employees I took note of the specialized skills required to perform in their roles. These skills are critical to the operation of manufacturing businesses across the district and the nation.
An essential part of ensuring that manufacturing has a future in our country is to make sure that these skills are passed on to the next generation of the American workforce. In southwest Missouri, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce coordinates the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies, known as GO CAPS. The GO CAPS program collaborates with local businesses, allowing high school students to explore their passion by giving them real-world experience in potential professions. These experiences allow high school students to immerse themselves into a career, cultivating their interests, and developing the skills needed to enter the workforce upon graduation from high school or college.
GO CAPS currently works with 22 area school districts and enrolls over 350 students, offering them 6 strands where they can cultivate their interests in specific career fields. Current strands include medicine and healthcare, engineering and manufacturing, business and entrepreneurship, information technology and software solutions, teacher education, and agri-business and food systems. This wide variety of strands gives students exposure to a variety of career fields, allowing them to narrow down their interests. Once accepted into the program, students are paired with a mentor from a local business within their pathway and are tasked with completing a business partner project. These partnerships give local businesses young people who are eager to learn while providing students the opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience.
During my manufacturing tour, I emphasized the importance of making sure the next generation of Americans can step into high skilled manufacturing jobs and urged manufacturers to participate in the GO CAPS Program. I hope to get as many businesses as possible to participate in the program so that GO CAPS can fulfill its mission to “partner with businesses in the Greater Ozarks to provide high school students with an educational opportunity that is driven by real-world, career-oriented experience.” If you think that you or a family member can benefit from GO CAPS or that your business would be interested in partnering with the program, I would urge you to visit https://gocaps.yourcapsnetwork.org/.
For more information on my activities in our district and in Washington, I encourage you to follow my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Rep.Billy.Long and my Twitter page at https://twitter.com/USRepLong. You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter, "Long's Short Report," by visiting https://longforms.house.gov/newsletter-and-email-updates-form