Work force training program pushed on community level
Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2002
As the Nissan plant in Canton moves toward opening, stateeconomic development officials are promoting employee trainingopportunities in an effort to get businesses and individuals toutilize those services.
Work force training was the focus of a meeting Tuesday afternoonwith area officials and representatives from the MississippiDevelopment Authority (MDA), the Mississippi Employment SecurityCommission (MESC), and the State Board of Community and JuniorColleges (SBCJC).
“We want to let our community officials and economic developersknow how they can use federal Workforce Investment Act funds,” saidJames Lott, director of MDA’s Employment Training Division.
Lott said Mississippi receives $51 million a year in federalwork force training funds. The federal funds are used throughWorkforce Investment Network (WIN) Job Centers to assist businessesand individuals while state funds through community colleges targetthe same areas.
While there is different program supervision on the state level,Lott said benefits can be put together on the local level. Havingreadily-available work force training can assist in economicdevelopment.
“It gives you a different arrow in your quiver to deal with aprospect,” Lott told officials Tuesday.
Dexter Holloway, SBCJC work force education program specialist,discussed ways that community colleges and the WIN centers can worktogether to provide training.
“We’re working on the state level to have this seamlessprogram,” Holloway said.
Holloway said officials are looking at ways to utilize federalfunds to supplement state dollars for work force training.
“We’re here to provide training for individuals. We’re helpingto provide training for industry,” Holloway said.
With an estimated 20,000-25,000 jobs expected to result from thethree tiers of Nissan suppliers, Lott said it is important to focuson making businesses aware that Mississippi has an available poolof workers and those willing to be trained. Lott said the supplierscould have a “domino effect” in that they may hire people whoalready have jobs, and the companies that lose employees will needto get those replaced with trained workers.
Lott said MDA is doing a good job working with WIN job centersaround the state. Stan McMorris, manager of the WIN Job Center inMcComb, reported good results from training opportunity promotionefforts.
“We’re beginning to see more businesses use it,” McMorris said,expressing concerns about that smaller business have been slower tojoin in. “They should be taking advantage of it, but theyhaven’t.”
Paul Walker, MDA’s southwest existing business and industryliaison, mentioned the perception that some businesses have abouttraining programs.
“A lot of them think it’s for the larger companies,” Walkersaid. “It works for smaller companies and anyone, regardless of thetraining issues.”
A major benefit of the training programs is that companies canbe reimbursed 50 percent of their costs for employee training. Forexample, Walker said a company getting a new piece of equipment canget training assistance from the product manufacturer, communitycolleges, or handle the training itself and be reimbursed for partof the costs.
“It really pays dividends for that company,” Walker said.
Others expressed similar sentiments.
David Holland, manager of the Brookhaven WIN Job Center, said itis a “no-lose situation” for participants.
“It behooves each county to get what they can out of the federaltraining dollars,” Holland said.
Lincoln County District 2 Supervisor Bobby J. Watts applaudedthe training programs and said it is something the county shouldconsider for its employees.
“The money’s there, it’s a good program and we ought to use it,”Watts said.
District 4 Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak spoke about the economicdevelopment benefits in being able to attract business or industryprospects to an area.
“Any time you can get reimbursed for job training, I think thoseare funds we ought to take advantage of,” Moak said.