A Passion for Improving Mississippi’s Workforce

When Johna Peyton started her career, she never thought her path would lead to apprenticeship programs. She majored in math and spent over two decades as a classroom teacher in the Mississippi Delta. Now, Johna serves as the program specialist for the Mississippi Apprenticeship Program (MAP) where she helps ensure the program reaches its goal of expanding apprenticeship and strengthening the talent pipeline in Mississippi by putting her math major to good use. Despite her passion for the work she says she did not choose apprenticeship, the work found her.

Before coming to MAP, Johna spent several years working as a grant administrator on programs that provided basic education and skills training. Her time living and working in the Mississippi Delta led her to the realization that education could help change lives. “In the Delta, we are surrounded by poverty, and you can see that the only way people are going to overcome that and make a change in their lives, in their children’s lives, and in their grandchildren’s lives is through education.” Although she initially believed that people needed to go to college to better their circumstances, a job as a grant administrator for a workforce training program changed her perspective.

“I learned that there were programs that taught people the skills they needed to get a job to provide for their families and move out of poverty.” Johna also saw that these programs were giving people, who might have lost hope or thought it was impossible for them to get the training they needed to be successful, find the confidence to take steps toward changing their lives. “This might sound cliché, but it is so rewarding to see someone who did not think they were capable of passing a class or learning something new to complete a workforce training program and improve their lives.”

In her work with MAP, Johna is committed to providing more opportunities for people in her hometown and across the state to secure or advance in their careers which will help to build a thriving Mississippi community and robust talent pipeline. “Our goal is to continue to grow the number of apprenticeship programs and increase the variety of job sectors engaged in apprenticeships in Mississippi.”

With more than 1700 apprentices, MAP has surpassed its goal of the total number of apprentices enrolled in programs in Mississippi. Despite reaching this goal, Johna hopes the program can create more opportunities for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and veterans by increasing partnerships with employers and organizations that serve these populations. “We want to get to a point where anyone who wants to work and needs a job has options here in the state.”

If you are interested in learning more about launching an apprenticeship program for your company or to learn about current programs, contact the Mississippi Apprenticeship Program at info@mccb.edu.

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