SuperTalk Mississippi

Community Colleges could hold key to educated workforce

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communications Inc.

The Secretary of State’s office recently completed their survey of Mississippi business owners and the findings showed that employers are in desperate need of an educated workforce.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann recently continued his tour of the state to meet with communities about their workforce needs and how the state can improve. A key area for improvement that Hosemann has noticed is a lack of communication between schools, communities and businesses when it comes to skills needed to fill their openings.

While the majority of jobs in the state require a degree beyond the high school level, Hosemann says that nearly 70% of state residents do not meet that requirement, which has caused many openings to remain unfilled. Hosemann pointed out that while a four-year degree is great, it is not necessary for many good-paying jobs that await a qualified applicant.

“We want our community college system to reach down into the 10th, 11th and 12th grades, and start with a process of providing the skills that they need to be competitive in the workforce,” Hosemann explained.  “This is an effort and an absolute must for the community colleges and the high schools to be seamless in their education. Without any doubt, our future employees will end up having a 13th or 14th year of education.”

Hosemann noted that the key is keeping students intrigued and involved during their high school years. He gave the example of a school in Byhalia that allows seniors to operate mechanics like they would see in a Toyota manufacturing plant, and it allows them to get experience under their belt before they graduate from high school.

“When they cross the graduation platform, we don’t want to give them a degree and ask ‘what do you think you’ll do now?’ We want them to have had a year taking courses that give them these skills,” he said.

According to Hosemann, a few extra years of education could be truly rewarding both on the personal and financial level.

“We’ve discussed what they can earn at an hourly rate at some of these jobs. Including benefits, retirement plans and health benefits, some of those total more than the secretary of state’s salary, I can tell you,” he said. “These are very large, well-paying positions that are open with prospects for future growth.”

The graduation rate in the state and the unemployment rate are at all-time highs and lows, respectively, but statistics from the office’s study show that employment numbers could skyrocket with the benefit of an improved workforce.

  • About 75 percent of Mississippi businesses find it moderately to significantly difficult to find an educated workforce;
  • It takes more than 47 percent of businesses three months to a year (or more) to find a qualified employee for an open position;
  • About 45 percent of current businesses said they would expand in Mississippi if they had an educated workforce;
  • More than 45 percent of businesses require employees to hold a two-year degree or higher; and
  • More than 30 percent of businesses said an educated workforce is most important to their business, and 20 percent said community support was most important.

Hosemann was recently in Lowndes County meeting with the community as they are set to open workforce training facilities worth over $55 million by the end of 2019. With business owners and community members, Hosemann discussed these figures and concepts. He was encouraged by what he heard and the interactions he had. Areas that have embraced this notion mentioned by Hosemann were Gulfport, Vicksburg, Corinth and several others.

The office will continue to ask for input on survey’s as they monitor the progress of these solutions.

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