Raising awareness of real opportunities in the job market and changing the conversation around skilled labor seen as key in attracting younger workers.
Since its creation, the Skills Foundation of Mississippi has been focused on increasing the skilled workforce in the state by educating Mississippians about available opportunities and connecting them with a training program in their area. The non-profit has partnerships with over fifty private companies, public entities, and non-profit organizations.
In an op-ed published by Magnolia Tribune at the end of May, Executive Director of Skills Foundation of Mississippi, Clifton Carroll, said the workforce pipeline needs to be modified to reflect today’s job market. He explained that from adult learners looking to reskill to college students pursuing a degree, too few Mississippians are actively choosing fields of study which pay high wages and have open jobs, such as manufacturing, construction, and logistics.
“Corporate investment is flooding into the Hospitality State at record pace, bringing more high-paying jobs with it. Our unemployment numbers continue to hit record lows. And despite recent inflation, Mississippi’s cost of living remains among the most comfortable in the nation,” Carroll said. “Let’s keep our foot on the gas. Let’s change the conversation on skilled jobs, raise awareness of the actual opportunities in the labor market, and work together to get Mississippi working.”
One of the students who received a scholarship from the Skills Foundation of Mississippi, A’dymun Walker, spoke with Magnolia Tribune about the impact it has had on her education and training. Carroll described her scholarship or “signing bonus” as funds that help students get through the program.
Walker graduated from a high school in Hattiesburg in May 2023. She is interested in nursing, and that career path has always been her career goal because she lost her mother at an early age.
“I want to take care of people,” Walker said.
She explained that college isn’t cheap. She said she is extremely grateful for the scholarship as she plans on attending Pearl River Community College (PRCC) in the fall.
Currently, the Skills Foundation has two initiatives that they are working on to achieve their goals: Skills That Pay and MS Pathfinder. Skills That Pay is a public affairs effort that was initiated in Hattiesburg to promote the benefits of pursuing a skilled job. Students who choose these routes can enjoy good wages and benefits, but also quicker earning potential, the ability to go into a good job without much or any student debt, and long-term job stability no matter where they live.
“In Hattiesburg, we identified three sectors as having the greatest need for more workers: advanced manufacturing, energy, and healthcare,” Carroll said. “All are in abundant supply in the Greater Hattiesburg area, and all offer good wages.”
“We were thoroughly impressed and encouraged by the reception we received in the area,” Carroll continued. “ADP, the local Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Organization, quickly and fully welcomed us, allowing us to participate in a number of events to help spread our message early on in the campaign. Pearl River Community College was also extremely helpful to our effort, and I know we would not have had the success we did without them.”
The Executive Director of the Skills Foundation of Mississippi explained that they are now planning to take what they learned in Hattiesburg to other areas of the state while continuing their work in the Hub City.
“We believe an effort like this takes persistence, and we intend to stay in that area for the long haul,” Carroll said. “Our hope is to eventually expand this effort to the whole state, but we want to make sure we roll it out carefully so as not to sacrifice any quality.”
MS Pathfinder is a website in conjunction with AccelerateMS. It is a tool for career coaches as they work with students on planning career trajectories. The site will allow AccelerateMS career coaches to submit accurate, real-time data to be used by developers and policymakers as well as serving as a one-stop-shop for information regarding skilled work and skills training in Mississippi.
“Our hope is that this will also be a useful tool for parents, students, and even adults looking to reskill or upskill, as well as career coaches under different programs, like the Create Foundation and Jackson County’s P3 program,” Carroll explained.