Workforce Priorities Top Mississippi Economic Council's List as Crucial to
Securing Mississippi's Future
With information compiled from its annual statewide tour, the Mississippi Economic Council’s (MEC) “Securing Mississippi’s Future: Vision for Economic Growth” report today identified a “lack of qualified workers” as the number one concern of businesses across Mississippi. The report incorporates findings from 51 focus-group style meetings conducted in 18 communities across all regions of Mississippi, an online, quantitative survey, and other research.
“Without exception, a lack of availability and preparation of qualified workers to meet current and future needs, was of greatest concern across all business sectors,” said Scott Waller, president & CEO of MEC. “While generally optimistic about the business climate, workforce issues were universally troubling as a risk to economic growth and a major hurdle for existing businesses.”
Other issues of concern included the state’s approach to promote career awareness and readiness; Mississippi’s ability to retain and attract workers; broadband and transportation infrastructure needs; general economic development and business climate concerns; and healthcare.
“It is mission critical for everyone to work together to address current and future workforce needs if we are to secure and improve Mississippi’s economy and increase economic opportunity for our citizens and communities,” said Major General Augustus Collins (Ret.), 2021-22 Chair of MEC.
The research and business realities are clear: Mississippi cannot afford a silo approach to addressing workforce development, training, education, or skills development. Technical skills, soft skills, and barriers to employment must be addressed if Mississippi is to successfully meet the needs of existing and emerging businesses and grow our economy.
“We must come together and do more if we are to prepare, retain and attract qualified, skilled workers to meet the needs of an ever-increasing technical economy,” Waller said.
The 2021 Tour provided keen insights into challenges, experiences, and concerns on the local and regional levels. Waller expressed appreciation to local chambers of commerce for assistance with the meetings, which included leaders from economic development, education, business, industry, and healthcare sectors.
“We also thank the Mississippi Legislature, the leadership, and specifically workforce committee chairs, Senator David Parker and Rep. Donnie Bell, for their focus on improving workforce development,” Waller said. “One major example is establishing a long-awaited Office of Workforce Development – Accelerate Mississippi (AccelerateMS) – tasked with making the highest and best use of state workforce resources and strategic planning.
"MEC is pleased to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with AccelerateMS, leading true collaboration with public and private entities statewide. Alignment and accountability are crucial to our ability to meet real-world priorities for today and the future. Working together, MEC will focus on increasing awareness of the diversity of career paths available in Mississippi, removing the stigma around technical and skilled trade careers, and promoting the attainment of credentials of value.”
“The outpouring of support from MEC and the state’s business community is tremendous,” said Ryan Miller, executive director of AccelerateMS. “Drawing upon quantitative and qualitative research and the economic planning advanced and shared by MEC, our AccelerateMS team is using a data-driven approach to build the state’s Workforce Investment Opportunity Act plan.
“While our work has just begun, AccelerateMS is actively collaborating with public agencies, K-12 and postsecondary education systems, economic developers, and the business community as we bring forth an ecosystem approach to share best practices and connect people with aligned training and higher-paying career opportunities. MEC’s guidance and support are invaluable. We greatly appreciate the information, access, and energy that MEC and its members bring to help create and fill good jobs here in Mississippi.”
Waller noted MEC’s 56-page research report and work plan builds upon a program of work developed in part thanks to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi’s continued funding of MEC’s annual tours. The plan aligns with MEC’s established goals in key categories:
Talent Retention and Attraction
Economic Development and Business Climate
Articulate the importance of healthcare for today’s workforce
The goals and recommendations outlined in the MEC vision for economic growth provide an actionable plan and create a pathway for capitalizing on the opportunities that exist for Mississippi. Working with numerous partners, MEC will now develop a well-defined process for determining priorities utilizing the private and public sectors.