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Jackson County industry leaders celebrate success of apprenticeships

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 8:38 PM CST
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - With National Apprenticeship Week winding down, Jackson County industry leaders wanted to celebrate their recent efforts to get more qualified people into the local workforce.

Officials in the manufacturing, health care, education and hospitality industries joined together for a special lunch in Cafe Bridge.

“Young people learn by doing,” Accelerate Mississippi Executive Director Ryan Miller said. “The students that you see in this room in the culinary program are great examples and beneficiaries of that.”

The makeshift restaurant is located in the College & Career Technical Institute. The servers and cooks are high schoolers, eager to learn the business.

“When you see young people do the work of professionals, it’s so heartwarming,” President & CEO of Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Paige Roberts said. “It really is what makes a difference here in Jackson County.”

The hungry crowd was made up of people who are investing in young people’s careers through work experiences.

For young adults, Jackson County has Department of Labor apprenticeships through Halter Marine, Rolls-Royce Naval Marine, Ingalls Shipbuilding and Singing River Health System.

For high schoolers, there is the workforce development program, P3: PASSION. PURPOSE. PAYCHECK.

“We’re not only looking at the workforce today but that pipeline of talent that is going the fill the jobs of the future,” Deputy Director of Jackson County Economic Development Foundation Mary Martha Henson said.

The group talked about their current plans to let more people earn while they learn, and future ideas to get people into in-demand careers.

“This is where it’s at when it comes to workforce development for the future of Mississippi,” Singing River Health System Workforce Development Specialist Deano Harrison said.

While the luncheon was a way to celebrate efforts to get more qualified people into the workforce, it was also a chance for industry leaders to brainstorm ways to keep young Mississippians in the state.

“I would always tell young people ‘Invest in your state.’ I know there’s opportunities elsewhere. I’m not trying to dissuade a young person from going and seeking education or job opportunities elsewhere. But consider the opportunity that you have to invest yourself in your home state,” Miller said.

That’s a message that Jackson County employers want to stress with so many big-name companies operating in the area.

“The Jackson County economy, not only is it important to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it’s important to the state of Mississippi. It’s important to the nation,” Henson said.

And whether high schoolers choose to further their education or pick up a trade after graduation, officials hope they see the benefits of digging roots in the Magnolia State.

“Look at all the options you have. Consider college, community college, vocational training. There’s no Plan A or Plan B. They’re all Plan A’s. Consider that. Weigh that,” Miller said.

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