Zora Mulligan

Almost two months have passed since Gov. Mike Parson kicked off his "Show Me Strong" pandemic recovery plan, coinciding with the end of Missouri’s stay-at-home order issued in early April.

The order was issued in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Since May, the economic reopening has been marred by a sharp rise of new coronavirus cases statewide, low consumer confidence and many Missourians still with little to no work.

In March and April, the State Department of Labor & Industrial Relations was inundated with new initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims. Since March 15, over 600,000 such claims have been filed in the state, and though the number of weekly initial filings has fallen from its peak of 104,230 at the end of March to 17,165 in mid-June, the numbers still remain high compared to last year.

But there is some good news, say state officials.

As part of the state’s "Return Strong" initiative to focus on retraining efforts for people affected by the economic shutdown, the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development recently announced a partnership with Coursera, a worldwide online learning platform, to allow Missourians to sign up for free online courses to earn certificates.

Through Coursera’s Workforce Recovery Initiative, Missourians who have an account or create an account at jobs.mo.gov will be able to have free access to about 3,800 courses with the emphasis of helping people develop the knowledge and skills to become re-employed.

Users who sign up before Sept. 30 will be able to take free online courses and earn certificates until Dec. 31.

According to Coursera’s website, the learning platform partners with around 200 American and international universities and industry educators to offer courses teaching job-relevant skills across business, technology and data science fields.

The program also includes the ability to earn professional certificates from companies like IBM, Google and Amazon, designed to prepare people for entry-level careers such as in information technology fields.

“I truly believe education changes lives,” said Zora Mulligan, commissioner of higher education. “Coursera provides another avenue for Missourians to learn new, marketable skills and, even during this period of economic uncertainty, advance their careers.”

People participating in the program will be able to start at their own convenience and set work deadlines that accommodate their other commitments. There is no limit to the the number of courses people can register for as long as they sign up for them before Sept. 30 and complete them before Dec. 31.

“We’re proud to partner with Coursera to offer this free resource to Missourians,” said Parson. “Now, more than ever, it’s important for people to focus on learning new skills.”

Those with limited internet access or who need help signing up for the program can do so through the West Plains Job Center, 3417 Division Drive, which plans to reopen to the public Wednesday, with occupancy and social distancing restrictions in place.

For more information or to sign up go to jobs.mo.gov/coursera or call 256-3158 or 888-728-5627.

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