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MEC looks to legislative session, says workforce development key to MS economy

The New year is right around the corner, and so is the legislative session.

This year many legislators are saying that education is going to be one of the biggest items on the docket for the 2018 legislative session.

“What site selectors tell us is that number one, they want a work-ready workforce…,” said Scott Waller, Interim President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council. “We want businesses to be confident that they can come to Mississippi and be successful with their business here in Mississippi.”

Waller said that education and Mississippi’s economy go hand in hand.

“If we are doing the things to provide the ability for workers to have the practical skills, having critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, communication skills,” Waller said. If they have that basic foundation, they can then take them and get them the specific skills that they will need for that job.”

Waller added that apprenticeships are something that help allow students who may not want to go the traditional university route to understand that there is something out there for them that they are good at and that they would enjoy doing for a living.

“We don’t think about it often, but there is a lot of truth to the statement that says ‘it takes a lot of brains to work with your hands,'” Waller said. “People that have those skills are in demand and I think that that is one of the things that we have to focus on… While at the same time making sure that we are not losing focus on the importance of those that do need to seek the college degree and the jobs that exist as a result of things in the way of technology, computer science, and engineering that we have those great opportunities for our students here as well. I think it is two-fold. If you focus on one of those, I think you are going to lose track and I think that is what has happened.”

Waller added that he believes there needs to be more balance.

“We have been so focused on the college track that we have lost sight of the importance of the career-technical track,” Waller said. “I think we have to be very diligent in focusing on both of those tracks if we are going to be successful in this state.”

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