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Workforce Board recommends 130-million in CARES Act funds for training

Photo Courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

The Mississippi State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) is recommending the Mississippi Legislature utilize Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to make an investment of $130 million in workforce training between now and the end of 2020.

According to SWIB, the investment would create opportunities for more Mississippians to gain high demand skills that both pay above-average wages and align with workforce needs.

Patrick Sullivan. Photo courtesy of Gov. Reeves’ Office

“Investing CARES Act Funds to significantly boost high-tech, high demand skills training would be a home run for Mississippi’s near and long-term economic recovery,” said SWIB Chairman, Patrick Sullivan. “This recommendation is aimed to assist individuals this year in helping them access skills training while on the job, to help businesses defray costs of training new workers, and to make an unprecedented level investment in expanded training capacity to aid in the economic recovery and for years to come.”

The recommendation includes allocations for the following:

  • Training Capacity Expansion: $95 Million – Mississippi public education institutions have existing pathways to develop skills that are currently and will be in demand in the modern economy.  Many of these programs are expensive to operate because of costly equipment, instructor shortages, and limited space for facilities. Additionally, more space may be needed post-COVID-19 because of new social distancing & hygienic reasons. Many of these programs are currently running at or near capacity.  In order to upscale training capacity for the best training programs, $95 million should be allocated to adding capacity to these programs immediately with an aim for project completion by year’s end.
  • Employer Training Incentives: $25 Million – Many employers have the ability and need to hire individuals immediately and train them on the job.  For employers willing to hire and train Mississippians harmed by the pandemic and pay them above the private sector average, $25 Million should be allocated to reimbursement for a portion of wages during the on-the-job training period for new hires. Conditions should require a fair wage threshold (minimum $15/hour) with CARES Act funds covering 50% of wages during the training period up to year’s end. The end goal is to encourage more hiring into higher-wage occupations while getting more Mississippians trained on-the-job into a job with higher pay than their pre-COVID occupation.
  • Outreach & Education/Administration: $10 Million – Mississippians harmed economically by COVID-19 must be made aware of the opportunities and be connected to the managing agencies to take advantage of the opportunities outlined in this proposal. $1-2M should be allocated to outreach. The remainder goes to administrative costs for MDES and four local workforce areas to staff up to handle higher work volume.

Under the recommendation, efforts identified should be narrowly targeted to programs that can train individuals in a relatively short period of time, prepare them for jobs in high demand, both now and for the future, and allow individuals to earn an income well over the private sector average.

Mississippi’s four regional workforce areas are key partners to the SWIB in identifying workforce priorities and are recommended to be administrative entities and local clearinghouses for information. Statewide organizations Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Economic Development Council, and Mississippi Manufacturers Association are also key supporting partners.

“This is a rare opportunity for Mississippi to get more people trained into higher-paying jobs,” said Sullivan. “I am hopeful that the Legislature will seize this opportunity.”

The Mississippi State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) is the business-led strategy and coordinating entity for the Mississippi workforce development system.

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