JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin school leaders are putting a strong focus on hiring this summer.

They’re hoping to fill more than two dozen openings for paraprofessionals before classes start, and they’re getting some help to meet that goal.

It’s a partnership to connect the right job seekers with kids who need their help, and it starts with a new option to become a paraprofessional.

“An opportunity to get that job that they might not be able to get otherwise,” said Pam Regan, MO Job Center.

Regan wants to help future paraprofessionals get the training they need to get the job, and finding enough paras for Joplin classrooms has been tough.

“For over more than the last year, we have had difficulty with filling our positions. I think currently we have about 31 vacancies in the district,” said Meghan Klosterman, Joplin Schools Spec. Ed.

Klosterman said a tough state test stood in the way for some applicants. Now, there’s an alternate pathway to qualify as a para. Training online.

“The 20-hour course takes people through some kind of common knowledge for working in a classroom and gives them training that will prepare them to do the job,” said Klosterman.

The course costs $180 which could be more than some out-of-work applicants could afford.

Now, the Missouri Job Center is offering to foot the bill for those who qualify.

“Low-income individuals who might be receiving TANF, food stamps, those kinds of pro-government programs. Maybe you’re a dislocated worker and you’ve been laid off from your previous employment and you’re not able to go back to that. We have funding available to assist those people as well,” said Regan.

If you want to see if the job center will cover the cost of training for you, you must apply through them first.