MCEF Launches Building Futures in Mississippi

Initiative will prepare more Mississippians to become skilled construction professionals

PEARL ― A new age of opportunity is dawning for skilled construction professionals in Mississippi, and the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation is taking action to prepare workers for the 80,000 craft jobs expected to open in the next two years.

Through a comprehensive initiative called Building Futures, MCEF is intensifying its efforts to promote careers, recruit capable individuals, and train a quality workforce for Mississippi’s construction industry.

“Our state is moving in the right direction, and now we need all hands on deck to respond to this growth opportunity that could potentially benefit thousands of Mississippians and their families,” said MCEF President Mike Barkett. “The Building Futures initiative will focus on strengthening our network of partners to promote careers in the construction industry and recruit and train more Mississippians to pursue them.”

Established in 1996, MCEF has grown into a nationally recognized coalition whose aim is to prepare Mississippians for successful careers in construction.

This year MCEF is taking its message to the next level by emphasizing the critical role that career and technical education will play in strengthening the state’s economy and preparing Mississippians for the construction workforce of the future.

Through its Building Futures initiative, MCEF is planning an array of events and activities, including the annual Passport to Careers Expo on Feb. 28 and March 1 in Jackson. The expo brings together Mississippi eighth graders with leading agencies, large contractors, manufacturers and other businesses to learn about career pathways in construction, manufacturing, industrial maintenance and energy.

MCEF also will host a series of Building Futures informational meetings across the state involving teachers, guidance counselors, parents, business and industry representatives, civic clubs and elected officials. Meanwhile, the foundation is expanding partnerships with the state’s community colleges to create much-needed credentialing programs in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades and add more online training opportunities.

According to statistics compiled by the Association for Career and Technical Education, 30 percent of the 55 million job openings created by 2020 will require some college or a two-year associate degree. However, almost half of talent recruiters at Fortune 1000 companies have trouble finding qualified candidates with two-year STEM degrees, and more than 80 percent of manufacturers report that talent shortages will impact their ability to meet customer demand.

“We must stay ahead of the curve by offering programs that appeal to students and keep pace with advancements in technology and changing workforce demands,” said Mike Mulvihill, director of Career and Technical Education for the Mississippi Department of Education. “MCEF’s Building Futures initiative encourages career and technical education that creates stable employment opportunities while avoiding workforce shortages in our state.”

Barkett agreed, pointing out that today’s approach is light years beyond “votech” programs of the past, which focused only on a small portion of high school students with training limited to specific occupational skills — a practice that also restricted opportunities to compete for jobs. Back then, technical training was considered a completely separate track from academics, yet another limiting factor for students.

In contrast, modern career and technical education programs are open to all students, and they integrate academic and technical education to ensure that students are taught the same rigorous content as their peers. High school and post-secondary partnerships in Mississippi are providing pathways not only to employment but also to associate, undergraduate and advanced degrees.

“The transition represents a fundamental shift from programs being developed for those who were not going to college to today’s system that prepares students for both employment and postsecondary education,” Barkett said. “Now that all school programs are adhering to the same academic standards, the separate ‘track’ system that stigmatized construction training in the past is disappearing.”

Learn more about MCEF and its Building Futures initiative at http://mcef.net.

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