The Mississippi Gulf Coast faces the challenge in the next decade—and beyond—of developing and sustaining a highly-qualified and well-trained workforce. Meeting this challenge will provide greater employment opportunities and help industries of all kinds meet the needs of its customers. It will also drive an increase in the per capita income and improve quality of life.
The Workforce GoTeam carefully examined the challenges and opportunities for a workforce development strategy as part of the economic restoration of the Gulf Coast. These recommendations provide an overarching strategic direction for long-term workforce development initiatives and economic development activities focused on the goal of producing skilled workers in sufficient numbers to meet ongoing and future needs.
The high schools and community colleges serving the coastal counties will be the primary delivery mechanism of workforce training and development on the Gulf Coast. To better enable these educational providers, new and innovative ways of offering training and technical skills instruction will be key elements of making sure there is an abundance of highly-skilled workers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Several priorities were identified by the Workforce GoTeam to achieve the goal of having a highly-trained workforce on the Mississippi Coast. The priorities centered on the following components:
• Promoting workforce training programs as well as dual path/dual enrollment (from high school-to-work) programs as a successful career track as an alternative to the college-to-work route
• Implementing programmatic and curriculum-related activities focusing on a diverse array of workforce development and training opportunities, as well as basic life skills for all segments of the population
• Collaboration of education and training providers in high schools, community colleges, and universities through partnerships and career pathways to meet the current and projected needs of the Coast’s employers
The Workforce GoTeam also supported infrastructure improvements and expansions, and suggested the establishment of various Centers of Excellence, with links to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security WIN Job Centers, as a way to further elevate a broad range of workforce training initiatives.
Additionally, the Workforce GoTeam strongly supports the development of kindergarten through PhD formal education curriculum within the Mississippi Department of Education and the Institutions of Higher Learning guidelines that emphasizes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to help develop a workforce that will successfully compete on a regional to global scale.
Preparing individuals for the jobs available today and for the future not only means technical skills and knowledge but also the traditional basic skills required for success. Those skills include basic reading, mathematics, and critical thinking, as well as soft skills such as verbal/non-verbal communications and teaming skills, work ethic, healthy lifestyles, presentation and interview skills, and leadership development.
One of the most important factors impacting the ability to attract, prepare, retain, and sustain a competitive workforce is the availability of instructors and trainers who possess and maintain industry-recognized credentials and certifications. The ultimate outcome of workforce training is the awarding of nationally-recognized credentials and certifications to trained workers who possess skills and knowledge that measure up to industry standards. Career readiness certificates have become the basis for certifying skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, reading, applying mathematics, and locating information.
Part of the discussion and formula for implementing any future workforce development programs under the RESTORE Act should be considered against the backdrop of existing resources that are currently available and accessible.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) and Pearl River Community College (PRCC), the two community college districts serving the three-county coastal area, have been preparing individuals for entry into the labor force for 100 years. With market sectors readily apparent on the Gulf Coast, these community colleges are able to respond to business and industry by developing training programs for start-up or upgrade training.
Special efforts must be made to coordinate the community colleges’ efforts with high school training and guidance counseling so that young Mississippians are ready with basic skills when they enter the workforce training process.
Leveraging resources will be critical in accomplishing the priorities outlined by the Workforce GoTeam. MGCCC and PRCC both currently utilize local, state, and federal funds to achieve their respective missions. These funds could be leveraged with RESTORE Act funds to successfully achieve proposed infrastructure and programmatic priorities including new training programs, instructional personnel, equipment, facility needs, and student scholarships.
Funding for training programs and services is allocated based on full-time equivalent students for academic and career-technical programs with workforce funding allocated from the taxes that Mississippi employers pay into the Workforce Enhancement Training (WET) Fund. Adult basic education funding is a match with both federal and state resources. Perkins funding, federal funds for career-technical education, may also be used for equipment. Business and industry partnerships have assisted the community colleges by leveraging resources through equipment donations, student scholarships, internships, and advisory committee participation.
MGCCC and PRCC have existing and ongoing programs designed to prepare individuals for transfer to four-year institutions or entry into the workforce immediately upon completion of programs. These programs address labor shortages and provide new skills required to accommodate expansion in existing jobs.
The following programs and services represent typical offerings in respective market sectors on the Mississippi Gulf Coast:
Energy Technology: Without access to sufficient supplies and transmission of safe, affordable and efficient energy, all sectors of the economy would cease to operate. Given the need for energy technicians in the future—combined with the lengthy training and certifications required for energy technicians—additional programs will be required to increase the capacity for training process operators and instrumentation technicians as the industry expands into new energy technologies.
Shipbuilding/Marine Fabrication: MGCCC and PRCC actively support Gulf Coast shipyards in the coastal counties by providing pre-employment and incumbent worker upgrade training in multiple craft areas documented by industry-recognized certification testing. Local shipyards hire from these pre-employment and entry-level maritime training programs, and also provide equipment, materials, and subject-matter experts. Workforce trainers are in constant dialogue with industry representatives to ensure that training meets current industry testing standards.
Logistics/Supply Chain Management: Logistics is a two-year technical degree program designed to prepare workers to plan, implement and control the efficient, effective forward and reverse flow and storage of goods, services, and related information between the point of origin and point of consumption.
Information Systems Technology: The growing need for a well-trained Information Technology (IT) workforce will require increased skills and knowledge to meet job requirements. A cloud labor force will dramatically impact the shape and deployment of the Gulf Coast IT workforce. This necessitates the need for the design and development of additional innovative programs with highly credentialed instructors to prepare workers for such a rapidly changing IT environment.
Commercial Truck Driving: Mississippi employs a truck classification system and truck drivers are required to possess a commercial drivers’ license to operate a vehicle with a gross weight rating in excess of 26,000 pounds. While PRCC has operated a truck driving program in the past, the projections for growth in this industry will require expanded services in training with additional equipment and teaching personnel.
Vehicular Technology: Maintaining updated equipment and resources necessary for preparing certified vehicular technicians is an ongoing challenge. The existing training program for this field could be enhanced to prepare students for high-tech vehicles designed by transportation manufacturers.
Collision Repair Technology: MGCCC currently offers a Collision Repair Technology program. Maintaining updated equipment and resources necessary for preparing certified collision repair technicians requires updated technology to repair damaged automobiles.
Heavy Equipment Operations: PRCC offers this training. Future employment needs require additional focus on this area of training leading to nationally-recognized certifications in specialized areas. Many aspects of the restoration and preservation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region will be accomplished through massive infrastructure and construction projects.
By establishing a collaborative effort of public and private agencies representing education, workforce development, and economic development, programs can be implemented that will help new and existing businesses meet their growth needs as well as prepare individuals for high-skilled, high-paying jobs that are in demand.
The community colleges are positioned to partner with public and private sectors to develop and implement new programs to address labor shortages and new skills required as well as accommodate expansion in existing jobs. In addition, the colleges propose to expand multiple program offerings as part of the workforce development strategies presented.
The following section outlines programmatically the priorities—new and existing—that are proposed in anticipation of the projected growth for skilled workers for industry sectors on the Mississippi Gulf Coast from 2010 to 2020:
Petroleum Technology: To prepare a world-class workforce in land-based and offshore energy and related fields, new programs and curricula must be developed, and equipment in existing programs must continue to be updated.
Diesel Engine Technicians: Diesel service technicians and mechanics inspect, repair, or overhaul buses, cranes, bulldozers, tractors, trucks, and other equipment with a diesel engine, including the disassembly and reassembly of diesel engines and systems. With the hospitality and tourism market expected to remain a dominant sector on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as well as the expansion of ports with trucking lines, a trained workforce will be required to meet the needs of the industry requiring trucks and buses.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is a high-demand career field helping people who have injuries or illnesses to improve their movement and manage their pain. Future job projections for physical therapy assistants are a 39 percent increase for the next ten years.
Occupational Therapy: Occupational Therapy is a career field dedicated to helping patients develop, recover, and improve skills needs for daily living and working. There are currently no technical training programs in this field on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for this growing field of work.
Aviation Maintenance Technology: A skilled labor force in aviation maintenance will be essential in attracting and retaining manufacturers, vendors, and suppliers in this industry that has a growing presence in the Gulf Coast region.
Dual Credit/Dual Enrollment
Exposure to various vocations is critical to educating young minds about their options in the workforce. High school graduation is not the lone goal of a K-12 education. Rather, the ultimate goal of education and training is a good-paying job and lifelong career. Collaboration of educational institutions from K-12 to the community college to the university system in both the private and public sector has proven to be an effective approach to developing an educated citizenry and workforce.
A critical component to providing an optional path for students to achieve a career is the concept of dual credit/dual enrollment. Mississippi must continue to develop and implement a basic and consistently applied curriculum for non-collegiate career paths. This effort must integrate high schools with community and four-year college Teacher Prep/Teacher Training assets, aligned with Gulf Coast employers’ needs in existing and potential future business areas.
Community colleges provide opportunities for eligible high school students to earn college and high school credit simultaneously (dual credit) or to be enrolled in college courses while in high school (dual enrollment). With a joint agreement, students could enroll in academic or career-technical courses and be awarded both college credit and Carnegie units. For example, students could be enrolled in college courses in English, algebra, computer-related or welding classes and could receive college credit and high school credit for the same course. If a course is not offered at the secondary level, then students could dual enroll to earn college credit while completing high school. Courses may be offered at a college location, a secondary school site or online. Dual enrollment is a significant concept proposed for dropout prevention and recovery for high school dropouts.
The Asian and Hispanic populations on the Gulf Coast have historically been underserved by post-secondary institutions, as many of their preferred occupations have not required advanced education. As result of the natural disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, demand for these traditional occupations has been reduced significantly or eliminated. Community colleges propose to recruit this segment of the population for multilingual training programs and providing financial assistance to the participants.
Industrial Arts for High School Students
In addition to making it easier for high school students to gain exposure and interest in high-skilled technical training as part of dual credit/dual enrollment programs, it is important to note that 65 percent of the jobs in the future will require some technical skill at the post-secondary education level, and enrollment in secondary career-technical education is declining. Students often enter the workforce without essential, industrial technology skills such as applied mathematics, ruler reading, metric conversion, blueprint reading, tool identification, and other related skills. These skills have been condensed by the National Center for Construction Education and Research to a core skill set referred to as the NCCER Common Core. Incorporating this curriculum in high schools is a way to help provide essential skills for students to be better prepared in the future.
Job Training for Seafood Workers
As the seafood industry in the three-county Mississippi Gulf Coast is a major component of the economic restoration and recovery, the future preparation of the labor force for the seafood processing, sales, and distribution will be critical. With environmental and regulatory issues and the natural migration of wetlands, the seafood industry will change dramatically. New fishing and processing techniques and safety regulations will require the need for formal training of these workers. Community colleges have recently been impacted by the number of multicultural individuals seeking retraining or cross-training due to man-made and natural disasters. Language barriers often pose difficulty in traditional enrollment in training programs. Interpreters are required for most technical training areas. Programs through the RESTORE Act can potentially help assist in addressing specific language barriers, training programs, interpreters and assistance for displaced and incumbent workers.
The Workforce Development GoTeam, and several of the other GoTeams, recognized the challenge that developing and sustaining a highly-qualified and well-trained workforce has for the Gulf Coast and the entire State of Mississippi. Meeting and conquering this challenge will help industries of all kinds meet the needs of their customers while providing employment opportunities, increasing incomes, and improving the quality of life for many Mississippians.
The Workforce Development GoTeam carefully examined the challenges and opportunities for a workforce development strategy as part of the economic restoration of the Gulf Coast. These recommendations will provide an overarching strategic direction for long-term workforce development initiatives and economic development activities focused on the goal of producing skilled workers in sufficient numbers to meet ongoing and future needs.
The high schools and community colleges serving the coastal counties will be the primary delivery mechanism of workforce training and development; however, new and innovative ways of offering training and technical skills instruction will be key elements of making sure there is an abundance of highly-skilled workers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Co-Chair Jim McIngvale, Ingalls Shipbuilding
Co-Chair Mark Henry, Mississippi Department of Employment Security
Rep. Manly Barton (District 109)
Donald Evans, International Longshoremen Association
Mary Graham, Mississippi Gulfcoast Community College
Jonathan Jones, Grand Casino
Jimmy Lane, Lane Construction Company
Rep. Doug McLeod (District 107)
Marilyn Minor, South Mississippi Planning & Development District
Chris Monforton, Habitat for Humanity
Sen. Phillip Moran (District 46)
Les Newcomb, South Mississippi Planning & Development District
Diann Payne, Jackson County Civic Action Committees
Ron Peresich, Page, Mannino, Peresich & McDermott
Rep. Sonya Willams-Barnes (District 119)
Non-governmental Organization Advisor:
Daniel Le, Boat People SOS