Stronger standards lead to stronger workforce

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 27, 2018

By Mike Barkett

Being associated with the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation has taught me a lot about the incredible talent and determination of students who enroll in career and technical education (CTE) programs. Thanks to Mississippi’s strong network of CTE centers, students from all corners of Mississippi have access to training and national certification programs that can lead to stable, high-paying jobs in a number of growing professions.

Since becoming president of MCEF, I’ve witnessed a surge of interest in CTE career paths that are opening new worlds of opportunity for Mississippians. MCEF has played an instrumental role in this growth as the state’s leading provider of craft training in high schools, community colleges and apprenticeship programs.

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MCEF partners with the Mississippi Department of Education to deliver training to 5,000 high school students enrolled in 109 career and technical education centers. But it’s not our goal simply to increase the number of CTE enrollees in Mississippi — we also must make sure they’re equipped with the best training and education possible so they can compete for top jobs no matter where they go after graduation.

With that goal in mind, MCEF is focused on ensuring that our CTE centers value quality over quantity by achieving accreditation from the National Center for Construction Education and Research. NCCER accreditation reflects the higher demands being placed on CTE programs nationwide and will help position Mississippi graduates for greater success. Since the introduction of statewide competency standards in January 2017, the state’s 186 CTE programs have worked to meet a special set of performance-based requirements, or risk losing state-related funding. We want to position all of Mississippi’s CTE centers for success. That’s why MCEF has been conducting assessments to determine if programs are in compliance and to help develop improvement programs for those falling short of competency standards.

We’ve been very encouraged by the response of CTE centers.

Their leaders understand the need for increased rigor as well as the work that must be done for each center to earn the title of Accredited Training Education Facility (ATEF) from NCCER.

MCEF’s proactive steps will keep the CTE momentum moving forward as we continue working to prepare Mississippi’s workforce of the future.

By 2019, Mississippi will need more than 80,000 craft professionals to meet the needs of the state’s growing construction industry.

We will get there through responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars that includes raising the bar for all of our centers.