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On the hunt

New MPB show to outline where jobs are

Despite the economic downturn, there are job openings in Mississippi, and many are in the manufacturing sector where skilled labor is in demand.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s new TV show “Job Hunter,” which airs Jan. 6 will educate viewers about Mississippi’s major manufacturing sectors — such as automotive, aerospace, heavy metal, unique manufacturing and plastics — and the workforce development programs that can help them land jobs.

“Job Hunter” host Kerri Courtney will take viewers behind the scenes in high-tech industries from North Mississippi all the way to the Gulf Coast, featuring employers such as Systems Electro Coating, Eaton Aerospace, Caterpillar, Severstal and Precision Optics. Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and workforce development programs at several community colleges will be highlighted.

“Job Hunter” is presented in partnership with the Mississippi Manufacturers Association’s (MMA), which will use the series in its Dream It Do It program, which seeks to change high school students’ perceptions of the manufacturing industry.

“One thing we have found through surveys is people think manufacturing is the old, dirty assembly line kind of work that was the norm 50 years ago. But manufacturing has changed a lot, and there is a need for highly skilled workers,” said MMA spokesperson Sheila Skipper.

“We have so many high-tech companies coming into the state, and they’re needing new workers with good backgrounds in math and science,” Skipper said.

In 2006, MMA surveyed its members regarding their projected needs. “What we found was that manufacturers had problems with getting trained workers. They were looking ahead and found that there were shortages of skilled workers as well as unskilled production workers. They just didn’t have the numbers they needed to work,” Skipper said.

This concern led MMA to turn to the National Association of Manufacturers, which had developed the Dream It Do It model.

Last year MMA ran its Dream It Do It pilot program in Gulfport with high school and elementary students, and with good results.

Based on student and parents surveys conducted before and after the program, MMA saw that perceptions of the manufacturing industry had changed for the better.

Dream It Do It uses an interactive website, www.dreamitdoitms.org, where students can take a Career Quiz in youth-friendly wording for occupation suggestions. The first question: “If you could be the most famous person on earth, would you? (A) Yes-how awesome would that be (B) No-too many psycho fans annoying me.”

The website also contains information on job searching and interviewing, as well as information for parents and teachers.

As the program is expanded statewide, Skipper said MMA has plans to engage area businesses, with employees visiting classes and students taking factory field trips.

>> Viewers can watch: MPB TV Thursday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. or Saturday, Jan. 8 at 4:30 p.m. to see “Job Hunter.” More information can be found at www.mpbonline.org/JobHunter

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