Last week, Governor Tate Reeves launched the ReSkill Mississippi Initiative or ReSkillMS. This program is aimed at helping ease the economic burden and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for Mississippi’s workforce.
State Workforce Investment Board Chairman, Patrick Sullivan, sat down with Y’all Politics to discuss the cause behind the initiative and the impact SWIB believes it will have on Mississippi’s people and economy.
“There’s been a lot of talk about workforce development but the question is really what does that means. For us, I think it means we need to train more people in the right areas,” said Sullivan.
He said they consider pay grade and what employers are looking for as vital criteria for the jobs that are needed. He added that if we want businesses to grow in Mississippi there needs to be a pool of qualified workers to hire from.
“I think that was the issue even before COVID, but now when you throw some 300,000 people out of the 1.1 or 1.2 million people in Mississippi that go to work, into unemployment it just increase the need for what needs to happen,” said Sullivan.
ReSkillMS was created as a result of the Governor’s Commission on Economic Recovery’s recommendation that significant dollars from the CARES Act recovery funds be used for workforce training to help lift the economic burden on our workforce from COVID-19. Of the $1.25 billion in federal relief funds sent to Mississippi under the CARES Act, the Mississippi legislature appropriated $55 million went to the program to support state’s workers and employers.
Sullivan said that COVID has impacted the economy, but the types of jobs that are in demand seem to be the same. He said some of those include IT positions, construction and logistics, manufacturing, and healthcare. Once you begin to look into those fields they are able to decipher what specific jobs are needed.
“What we want to do as a state is make people aware and get them to these opportunities so we aren’t leaving them on the table” said Sullivan.
Sullivan said some of these programs have a quick training and turn around period, others may require up to a year or two of training before the turnaround will be felt in the economy. They work to connect people from all walks of life to these types of jobs, whether they be fresh out of high school or adults looking for a better paying career.
While Sullivan doesn’t expect to get $55 million over a five month period, like they were appropriated per the CARES Act dollars, he does anticipate the program staying around in some capacity.
“I think it’s going to take persistence and one after the other in these types of efforts in how we connect people with opportunities,” said Sullivan.