Call it the “Two-Cars-And-A-Boat” initiative.
Gov. Phil Bryant Friday morning briefed business leaders on a workforce development proposal that calls for pulling $25 million each of the next two years from the state’s unemployment compensation reserve fund. The money would be used to step-up the state’s efforts to train workers for advanced manufacturing jobs and to create a future generation of Mississippians with paychecks sufficient to afford “two cars and a boat,” Bryant said.
In a morning address of members of the Mississippi Economic Council, the state’s chamber of commerce, the governor said the unemployment compensation fund has built up the reserves as the jobless rate declined from 9.8 percent three years ago to today’s 7.2 percent.
The money in the fund is generated through unemployment compensation taxes employers pay. With the improved economy, demands on the fund have dropped 24 percent yearly, according to Bryant.
The idea of putting $50 million over the next two years into training high school and community college students for well-paying skilled jobs has considerable report in the Legislature, according to Bryant.
But the support of the MEC and its members will be critical, he said.
Two bills – House Bill 911 and Senate Bill 2457 – proposed diverting of the money.
To continue lowering Mississippi’s unemployment numbers, still among the highest in the country, the state must beef up the amount of money allocated to workforce training, Bryant said in his appeal for the support of business leaders.
That support can’t be assumed. Should the jobless rate begin climbing again, the state will have to raise rates businesses pay into the unemployment compensation fund.
In his pitch for help, Bryant noted that workforce quality comes up first when executives inquire about bringing their companies to Mississippi. “The first thing use to be ‘incentives,’ he said.
This recognition of workforce value, Bryant said, has led states such as Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina to recently establish job training funds in the $50 million neighborhood.
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