Workforce development is a key strategy to help create jobs and grow Mississippi’s economy. It’s one of the five components of Blueprint Mississippi, a strategic plan for economic development in Mississippi, and a top priority for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.
In his fourth State of the State address, Gov. Bryant presented his priorities to lawmakers for the 2015 legislative session, including a $50-million investment in workforce training.
“We realize that finding a job can and has changed lives for the better, so we must do all in our power to put people to work,” said Gov. Bryant. “Tonight, I am announcing the Keep Mississippi Working Fund—a program that will move nearly $50 million over the next two years without putting a demand on the General Fund.”Gov. Bryant highlighted the growing strength of Mississippi’s economy, as indicated by a decrease in the unemployment rate, an increase in job creation and a projected increase in personal income.
The governor also called on the Legislature to fund a $3 million scholarship program for high school students in career tech programs to pursue skills certifications and academic degrees at community and junior colleges.
“I believe with these two programs, we can focus on creating a world-class workforce. With that accomplished, our economic progress can be unlimited,” said Gov. Bryant.
In December 2014, Blueprint Mississippi launched its Social Business Challenge. The Challenge invites teams of students from Mississippi Public Universities to develop ideas for solving the state’s most pressing problems, while learning important lessons about planning, teamwork and presenting ideas.
“Mississippi’s universities are hotbeds of innovation, and this exercise underscores the valuable contributions these institutions make to the entire state,” Gov. Bryant said. “These students are the leaders of tomorrow, and I know they are up to the task of developing creative ways to address any challenge that is put before them. I look forward to seeing the results of their efforts.”
To prepare a workforce ready to meet the demands of today’s industries, Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems focuses on the real-world needs of the state’s advanced manufacturers. CAVS delivers engineering and technical assistance to the automotive industry, other OEMs, and small-to-medium sized manufacturers, and it prepares customized training courses to equip industries’ workers with the tools needed for success in today’s dynamic economy.
In partnership with Nissan, CAVS’ Canton, Miss., extension offers skills training to employees at the company’s Canton assembly plant, in addition the training programs the state has implemented for the eight Nissan models produced in Canton.
Nissan’s decade-long history in Mississippi is a testament to the state’s existing workforce strength in automotive manufacturing. Since locating in Canton, the company has been a story of continued expansion and job growth recently celebrating the opening of its all-new 2015 Nissan Murano assembly line.
In July 2013, Nissan announced the creation of 800 new jobs and the addition of a supplier park at the Canton location to support production of the Murano. In May 2014, it announced an additional 500 jobs to support production of the Murano, brining employment at the plant to more than 6,000. In March 2015, Nissan announced plans to invest another $160 million for a project that could create at least 1,000 new jobs.
The roll out of the 2015 Murano marks the first time the Murano has ever been produced in the U.S. The Canton plant becomes the global hub for Murano production, creating export opportunities in more than 100 markets worldwide and shifting the plant from a domestic manufacturer to a global one.
“Today’s rollout of the Murano is a testament to the quality and ingenuity of Mississippi’s manufacturing workforce,” said Brent Christensen, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), the state’s lead economic development agency.
Another program helping to train students in advanced manufacturing is East Mississippi Community College’s (EMCC) Basic Manufacturing Skills Course. Developed over the past 8 years by the EMCC, the 90-hour course covers computer literacy, blueprint reading, precision measurement, high-performance manufacturing, interviewing skills, CRP and the 10 Hour OSHA General Industry Safety Program.
Many large manufacturers in the area utilize this course as part of their screening and training process. According to the MDA, the program was critical to Yokohama Tire Manufacturing’s decision to locate its first U.S. commercial truck tire plant in Mississippi.
“With the potential of creating 2,000 jobs, [the Yokohama plant] project speaks not only to our commitment to a quality workforce, but an environment for growth and expansion,” said Gov. Bryant.
Prior to taking the Basic Manufacturing Skills Course, potential applications to Yokohama must first take the WorkKeys Career Readiness Certification test. Individuals who score Silver or higher (scores range from Bronze, Silver, Gold, to Platinum) are eligible to take the Basic Manufacturing Skills course. The college then refers the successful completers to the company for interviews.
“We are grateful that Yokohama Tire Corporation has placed its confidence in our strong business climate and its trust in our capable, dedicated workforce, and I am certain those two assets will help ensure the company thrives in West Point,” said Christensen.
Demonstrating their commitment to the future of Northeast Mississippi, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, Inc. and the Mississippi Corridor Consortium are partnering in a new, innovative education-to-work program.
Known as the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program, it is designed as an innovative manufacturing degree that will span five semesters of classroom instruction and provide paid, hands-on experience at Toyota’s Blue Springs automotive assembly plant.
The curriculum includes instruction in areas including electricity, fluid power, mechanics, fabrication and robotics, as well as advanced manufacturing, business principles and best practices. Upon completion of the program, candidates will receive an associate’s degree.
Candidates who earn an AMT degree will be able to compete for skilled positions across the country or may apply for any locally available positions at Toyota, its suppliers and any other locally-based companies.
Additionally, they may continue their education in engineering, technology or business or pursue employment opportunities in the open job market.
The state’s strong manufacturing workforce presence also helped attract Demark-based ROXUL, Inc., a leading manufacturer of stone wool insulation products, to open its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Marshall County. The company broke ground on its 600,000-square-foot facility in May 2013.
MDA provided workforce training assistance for the project, which is creating 150 new jobs and often employed more than 500 workers during the construction process.
“It is always exciting when a company announces its plans to locate in our state and create job opportunities for Mississippi’s residents, and it is equally as exciting when those plans are realized and companies officially open for business,” said Christensen.
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