Author: Tonya Neely
The demand for skilled labor is increasing across the United States and in our cities and towns right here in Mississippi. Business and industry leaders are looking to fill positions in trades such as construction, transportation and logistics, energy, shipbuilding, manufacturing, agriculture, and the list goes on and on. In addition to these more traditional trades, companies are looking to fill highly specialized roles in fields such as banking and finance, health care, and information technology. Many of these positions do not require workers to complete a four-year degree, which offers an important opportunity for people in our state who are not interested in or financially able to enroll in a traditional higher education program—apprenticeship.
Our state has joined states across the nation to address the shortage of skilled workers is through a coordinated and comprehensive effort to grow apprenticeship opportunities by investing in the creation and implementation of the Mississippi Apprenticeship Program (MAP). MAP, housed at the Mississippi Community College Board, is a grant-funded program that exists to help expand Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs and demonstrate that apprenticeship is a viable workforce strategy in Mississippi.
The program is in its fourth cycle of grant funding from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) serves as the fiscal agent of the project with other key partners that support and promote apprenticeship as a workforce development strategy in Mississippi, including the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and the Mississippi Governor’s Office.
MAP currently works with five of the state’s 15 community colleges to promote RA and has established partnerships with statewide business and industry within the advanced manufacturing, automotive, energy, banking and finance, shipbuilding, and transportation fields. The program boasts 12 partner companies and more than 1,700 apprentices. These numbers continue to grow because more and more organizations are recognizing the value of a customized training program that helps them recruit and retain talented employees.
During 2020 MAP plans to emphasize emerging apprenticeship fields such as healthcare and information technology with a focus on the rapidly growing cybersecurity sector. In addition to working with our community college partners to expand apprenticeship in their regions, we plan to work with the Mississippi Office of Apprenticeship to become a sponsor for RA in 2020. By becoming a sponsor, we will be able to work with businesses and industries statewide to help them establish and manage their RA programs.
MAP will soon be incorporating a new business engagement funding strategy that will allow our program to incentivize the hiring of apprentices. We are currently working with MDES on the specifics of the model and will soon make an official announcement. This new incentive is just one of many ways we are working on expanding apprenticeship capacity in Mississippi.
We will continue our efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of apprenticeship to various industry sectors while supporting our sponsor community college and statewide business and industry partners. Ultimately, our goal is to assist in making Mississippi a place where every Mississippian has the opportunity to earn a decent living wage to provide for their families, and companies can benefit from investing in work-based learning models like apprenticeship to meet their workforce needs.