Seven years ago the State Workforce Investment Board was established with a mission to help ensure a viable, well-trained workforce for Mississippi. The board is made up of a diverse group representing the various private sectors and public entities, especially public education, and works in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Jay Moon, president/CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, has been on the board since its inception and currently serves as chairman. “SWIB has coordinating authority over workforce education even though the education entities run their programs,” he said. “The board makes sure the programs are meeting the needs of employees and employers and that each program matches others.”
He says it’s a process that’s helped a great deal and has a lot of good things going on. With a variety of funding sources for workforce education programs, SWIB is proud of the Workforce Enhancement Training Fund it started with private sector funds. Moon said, “Workforce education has relied on general funds, but it’s now a set amount that can be rolled over from year to year, giving it additional flexibility. Now we can make multi-year commitments.”
Another accomplishment of SWIB is the establishment of a review and analysis mechanism to track training dollars to make sure the training resonates with the private sector. Working through Mississippi State University, this analysis asks the crucial question: how much difference did this training make? A united effort of educators and employers provides the over sight and overall coordination to provide effective training.
“The program has expanded and that’s very good,” Moon said. “It’s important to have a diverse group on the board that includes the private sector because they are using the employees who were trained. We don’t want private employers to have to re-train employees.”
Moon, a former economic development professional, knows first hand the value of effective workforce training. He worked with the Mississippi Development Authority 13 years and is in his 12th year with the Mississippi Manufacturers Association. “Workforce training is economic development and it never stops. That’s the real challenge; not just formalized training but re-training and keeping up with changing technology,” he said. “We must keep people trained throughout their lives. It’s estimated people change careers three times in their lives. There are also returning military veterans and people losing jobs to be re-trained.”
SWIB is developing a program of dual enrollment and dual credit whereby high school students get credit through community colleges while still in high school. “One thing I will focus on as chairman is improving the state’s high school graduation rate, and this program will help,” Moon said. “Individuals in this program will be going to work for the private employers on our board. We now have advanced manufacturing rather than just manufacturing, and employees must have higher skills levels.”
He feels the dual enrollment/dual credit program will help state residents move along the path to higher skills. The new program has begun and SWIB hopes to see it all around the state.
“I am also hopeful this program will help decrease our state’s high school dropout rate. That’s important to me,” Moon added.
“Our average dropout rate is 33 percent. Advanced manufacturing skills are needed; health care jobs are growing every day. With these challenges and opportunities and only three million people in Mississippi, we can’t afford for anyone to drop out.”
In addition to programs and procedures now underway, this board is looking ahead at ways to enhance early education and education through all levels.
SWIB members are planning a major event for October 29 when they will host the Governor’s Workforce Development Conference in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Board. It will be held in downtown Jackson at the meeting and convention center. “It will be very exciting as we show what’s going on around the country with the economy, economic development and workforce training,” Moon said.
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