When it comes to new business openings, employment opportunities and overall growth, St. Charles County continues to thrive. Recently, I talked with Scott Drachnik, Director of the County’s Workforce and Business Development Department and the Missouri Job Center of St. Charles County, about the status of our workforce and economy, and how the department’s services can help job seekers get started in their dream career. Here’s what you need to know:
- Many people don’t realize St. Charles County is the third largest county in the state in not only population growth, but also economic share. When considering the average percentage of income, employment and population, St. Charles County follows St. Louis and Jackson counties in providing the largest contribution to the state’s economy. As a result of that ranking, we are a major economic engine for the entire St. Louis metropolitan area, Scott told me.
Also, each June the Missouri Department of Economic Development reports the annual average wage for every county in Missouri. For 2018, the average wage for St. Charles County was $44,132, and for 2019 it has grown to $45,889. That’s a 4 percent increase from last year. The U.S. inflation rate as of June 2019 was 1.8 percent, so this indicates solid growth for our community, as well. The average annual wage has steadily grown in St. Charles County:
- St. Charles County also ranks among the top 25 counties in the nation for high-tech job growth, according to the Progressive Policy Institute. Scott tells me we’re referred to as the ‘Silicon Prairie’. The I-40/64 corridor, including the Missouri Research Park, has become a booming area for tech and biotech companies.
Looking ahead, recruiting and retaining local talent is of utmost importance to these companies. To help foster interest in technology and science careers among students, the Workforce and Business Development Department works with area schools and businesses to promote opportunities, including free “Learn to Code” courses regularly offered at the Missouri Job Center of St. Charles County and participation in the St. Charles County CAPS program.
According to Scott, careers in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math— always are going to be in demand, and we want to encourage youth to explore these fields as potential career paths. He says the hope is that they decide to stay in St. Charles County for jobs after completing college or training and apprenticeship programs.
- Amazon, one of the world’s biggest online retailers officially opened its first robotic fulfillment center in Missouri on July 21—and it’s in the city of St. Peters. Construction of the facility began in 2018 and provided approximately 1,100 jobs, and the company started hiring on June 28 for over 1,500 jobs that pay $15-$17.90 based on experience. The center will handle products shipped all over the country.
Scott reminded me that St. Charles County already was home to major employers, including General Motors, Citi, Mastercard Worldwide, Nike and Boeing. Amazon is definitely the biggest addition to the Premier 370 business park area—which is almost full—and helps further establish St. Charles County as a fantastic place to locate a business.
- Healthcare and automotive industries also are hiring and booming in St. Charles County. Both General Motors and SSM Health recently held hiring events to recruit new talent. If General Motors pursues an expansion of its Wentzville plant, there will be even more opportunities on the horizon. And, nursing shortages will continue to make that an in-demand career.
- One of the comments Workforce and Business Development staff often hear from employers is that they have more jobs to fill than applicants. If you look at the top occupational sectors, though, St. Charles County residents are primarily in management, business, science, arts, sales and general office jobs that provide security:
Employees in these fields, especially if they are paid well and have great benefits, tend to stay with their current employers, according to Scott. He says it also helps explain why we continue to have the lowest unemployment rate in the entire St. Louis metropolitan area. For employees to make the leap, companies need appealing salary and benefits packages to attract new hires.
- For anyone who wants a career change, Workforce and Business Development is here to help. The department operates the Missouri Job Center of St. Charles County and has a wide range of services.
The trained staff provide free career and vocational counseling, resume assistance, and interview preparation and hold a variety of workshops on career-oriented topics, from networking and online job searching to computer skills courses. They can help connect job seekers with the state’s Jobs.Mo.Gov database to find opportunities and connect citizens with apprenticeship and youth employment programs.
The department just started hosting Pop-Up Job Centers to help citizens learn more about all of these services. The next one will be held 4–7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 1, at Sts. Joachim and Ann Food Pantry, 4116 McClay Road in St. Charles. Additionally, the department is hosting a Fall Career Expo for jobs paying $30,000 per year and above from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Spencer Road Branch of the St. Charles City-County Library, 427 Spencer Road in St. Peters.