Reeves announces new program to boost workforce

Published 4:54 pm Thursday, September 30, 2021

Wednesday, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced a statewide push to work with community colleges across the state for workforce development.

He said that his aim is to make this state the best place in the nation to raise a family.

Through Senate Bill 2564, Reeves has allocated $25 million to  create the office of Workforce Development and a program called Accelerate Mississippi. 

He plans to allocate a portion of $10 million of the $25 million to the 15 community colleges across the state. To ensure each area of the state creates a program that meets the most pressing needs, the state has been divided up the eight regions of the state into “ecosystems” based on the area’s population and industry needs.

Ryan Miller has been appointed as executive director of Accelerate Mississippi.

Miller said that the most important issue facing the state right now is a lack of workforce in key areas. One of those areas is diesel mechanics. That shortage of diesel mechanics has led to the expansion of a program at Mississippi Gulf Cost Community College through a $1 million allocation from the Workforce Development program. Currently MGCCC is the only institution to receive a grant.

MGCCC President Mary Graham said that expansion of the diesel technician program at the learning institution will help people get the training they need to not only find a good paying job, but fill a need for employers who are having a hard time filling positions.

The training will include a CDL aspect so that the technicians will be able to test drive the vehicles they work on.

Tuition in the program will be free as part of the grant, and some of that grant money will be used to purchase equipment and employ trainers to expand the program.

Reeves said that the various companies in the state need 500 diesel technicians annually, but only 100 receive the training they need to get the job.

Reeves said the $25 million was found in existing funding from unemployment insurance.

At the end of the press conference, Reeves was asked by various media outlets about teacher shortages, when a special session will be held concerning medical marijuana and abortion.

Concerning the teacher shortages, Reeves said he is proposing a pay raise to $42,000 annually.

In relation to the medical marijuana program, Reeves said more time is needed to get all lawmakers to a point that they are in agreement before that session can be held.

He added that while he voted against Initiative 65, he understands the will of the people indicates they want access to medical marijuana. A state Supreme Court decision overturned the Initiative 65 passage earlier this year. That election was held back in 2020.

His comments concerning abortion centered on evidence that at 15 weeks a fetus has a developing heart and can feel pain.