Workforce summit joins state resources and businesses

Mississippi is looking to help businesses in the state. Dr. Laurie Smith, Executive Director of the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) said Governor Bryant will be hosting a Workforce Summit on January 23, 2019, where more than 600 Mississippi businesses will participate and find out how the state can best help them grow.

“The Governor’s Workforce Summit is going to be primarily for human resource directors and companies to let them know what resources are available to them, to go out and find an employee and how they can do it at no, or very little cost,” said Governor Phil Bryant.

Jack Bilotta, Plant Manager at Miluakee Tool in Greenwood said prior to the most recent expansion they had 600 employees at their Greenwood facility where they currently employ 850 and he said that number will approach 1,000 employees within the next year with help from the state. During the expansion process, Bilotta said they reached out to the state wanting to partner with them and said they were surprised at the number of programs that were already available to businesses.

“Some of the programs that were already in existence were kind of a shock,” Bilotta said. “We thought that we would be bringing some new ideas but we started talking about childcare because of the amount of single parents and that interfering with the person’s ability to be able to maintain a job, the Governor and his team already had a program in place for that.”

Bilotta’s experience in businesses ranges across several states and said Mississippi stands out for their aggressive commitment to businesses.

“If you have an idea or a concept that you want to run by the Governor and his staff, they’re always receptive to it and the resources they are willing to put on it to enable you to grow, I haven’t seen, in my career, another state that compares in that regard,” Bilotta said.

Smith said during the Workforce Summit, businesses will be able to connect with free resources that will move their company forward be it through soft skills training, apprenticeships programs and being aware of what workforce is available in the state.

“We are going to have the exhibits together sectioned off by the Delta and different areas of the state where you are from so you can meet those workforce people from your area,” Smith said.

However, it isn’t just the state that is helping with workforce development. Dr. Smith said they have identified 138 programs which fall into three categories: Prepare, Connect, and Sustain.

John Davis, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services also serves as a member of the SWIB board and said MDHS offers a wrap-around service to companies through Families First for Mississippi where things like counseling, online high school diplomas, transportation, childcare, etc. are offered that would otherwise cost the company or the individual without it being a pull or a drain on the companies themselves.

“Many of the companies in Mississippi, unless they are big corporations, have small or limited staffs in their HR departments and one person is not going to be able to handle all of those needs for that employee,” Davis said. “Maybe the employer has to hire another person to do that when in fact they don’t have to if they utilize the wrap-around services that we offer.”

“For anybody that is looking for opportunity, the opportunity does exist here in Mississippi,” Bilotta said. “One of the key things we have tried to do is to enable people to grow in the organization that are from Mississippi. We are not doing our recruiting outside of the state and part of the reason for that is the linkage we have with the Governor’s office, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and things like that. There’s a lot of talent here in Mississippi and we need to keep them here.”