Monday at Taylor Power Systems in Clinton MS, Lt. Governor and contender for Governor, Tate Reeves, announced a new workforce development plan to increase the number of skilled workers coming out of Community Colleges as well as Institutes of Higher Learning and ready for skilled labor jobs. He was introduced by Lex Taylor, Chair of the Taylor Group of Companies.

The plan he released includes a breakdown of how the $100 million will be divided up.

  • $2.5 million in grants to assist local communes in becoming certified as “work ready”
  • $1 million investment in incentives for high school graduates to earn industry credentials
  • $20 million grant program to help working families get up on their feet and ready to work by dealing with issues like childcare and transportation.
  • $1.5 million to train the next generation of Mississippi coders in software development at K-12 schools.
  • $75 million investment in community colleges to modernize their workforce training capabilities.

Reeves said his ability to make this proposal was due to the last eight years of conservative leadership in the state. He said the proposals today are about building on the foundation laid by the administration of the last eight years.

“I’m going to make some proposals and some of them are going to cost money,” said Reeves. “The fact of the matter is the reason we are going to be able to make these proposals to invest in you and our workforce is because we have been willing to make strong conservative fiscal policies in the last eight years.”

In the prior fiscal year, that ended on June 30, the state will collect over $300 million more in revenue than was originally projected. The will increase year over year revenues over 5 percent in 2019.

Reeves said the vast majority of funding in this plan is more of a one-time financial capital investment and plans to use extra revenue from the state’s Capitol Expense fund, part of the rainy day fund amount, in order to fund it.

“I believe that we will have more than enough resources in our Capitol Expense Fund that we could write a check for these expenditures on day one if that is what the Legislature and the next Governor agree too,” said Tate. He said he does not see a necessity in borrowing more money for this plan.

He focused on one point, that the change needs to come with the idea surrounding work culture.

“I believe in Mississippi. We need to work to promote a culture of work and to enable Mississippi’s workforce to compete with anyone anywhere in the country, and in fact anyone anywhere in the world,” said Tate. “And Mississippians can compete.”

Reeves believes that to keep the economy growing, and the unemployment rate at the lowest it has ever been, there must be an investment in skilled trade jobs and workforce development programs.

If approved, the plan would readjust the approach of education in the changing landscape of the job industry. This will impact the high school curriculum and a could mean a $20,000 flat fee for college tuition for bachelor degrees in high growth industry program.

“This will allow students to enter the workforce faster and in an industry that will provide good quality work for fair pay,” said Reeves. “I want everyone in Mississippi to have the chance to work a good job for honest pay.”

In order for flat fees and curriculum to change, it must be approved by IHL and the Community College Board. Reeves said moving forward he anticipates those entities and Legislature would work closely to make those decisions.

Reeves said one challenge they face is ensuring that those individuals coming out of school are aware of the jobs available to them in these particular fields. While unemployment rates are at an all-time low, the number of able-bodied (18-65) workers who are not working is still high.

“We have to change the mentality about work. That is not only going to be beneficial to our job creators and small business owners, it is going to be beneficial to those who choose not to work even though they are of able body and age,” said Reeves.

Some websites like MS Grad Jobs, already exist to help connect students with the industry.  The state website currently has 40,000 listed jobs that are still unfilled.