Mississippi leads way in workforce development

Other states are learning from Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant recently sat on a panel at the National Governor’s Association talking about workforce and regulatory reform where he shared about Mississippi’s progress.

“Mississippi is helping lead the way on that 80,000 new jobs since 2012,” said Bryant. “We’ve got the lowest unemployment in Mississippi history. There was a Wall Street Journal article just this weekend talking about how unemployment has been below 5% since September 2016 and it had never been below 5% in Mississippi’s history, so everyone wants to know what’s going on in Mississippi, how we are continuing to be able to lead the nation in that.”

Bryant added that they also shared early childhood education reforms like putting learning components into the daycare systems, and Mississippi’s growing high school graduation rate, as well as, the successes of the third-grade reading gate.

“It was really encouraging to me to be at the White House, talking about these things to be speaking about Criminal Justice Reform in front of the National Governor’s Association and see Dr. Laurie Smith there at the White House with Ivanka Trump talking about again workforce training and regulation reform,” Bryant said.

Smith serves as the head of the State Workforce Investment Board and sat in on a roundtable discussion with Ivanka Trump while in Washington to discuss the child care industry and ways to provide quality care. Smith said Mississippi has created a holistic approach to the issue which brings together early childhood education and workforce development.

“The number one thing that everyone wants to know from us is the Mississippi works technology,” said Smith. “How did you start that in your state, can we come to visit? how can we duplicate that effort in our state and how did you get all of those agencies to work together.”

Bryant echoed Smith’s success with the Mississippi Works app saying people want to know how it works and how easy it is to implement.

“We always look at other states how they are reacting to different challenges that we have, but quite honestly it was more them looking to Mississippi,” said Bryant. “We have been in the area of workforce, education, and criminal justice helping lead the nation particularly when I show them the Mississippi Works app. That always gets everyone’s attention. They want to know how in the world we did that. They want to know how we developed an app that tracks every job opening in the state of Mississippi and then how people can apply for jobs on the app.

When it comes to early childhood efforts, Smith said other states use an equality rating system which ranks childcare centers between one and five stars. However, Mississippi is one of the few states not using this system.

“What we are doing is very Mississippi specific in the way that we are helping the whole family while we help the child at the childcare center,” said Smith. “A lot of people wanted to know how to go about doing that, what results we were seeing and could they come and see it firsthand. This idea of using workforce development, of helping a parent find a job at the same time that you are helping the child find high quality childcare it is really what is supported by research that we are going to see better outcomes of kids because if the parent can do better and become more self-sufficient then the child will do better. I love the holistic approach to it.”