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AccelerateMS driving workforce training in Mississippi

Feb. 24, 2023

Source: Mississippi Business Journal, by Lynn Loftin

A state agency that's not quite three years old has big plans for the state's workforce. AccelerateMS is essentially the state's office for workforce training, according to Executive Director Ryan Miller.

“A lot of Southeastern states have offices like this, and we didn't have it until it was created three legislative sessions ago,” he said. “We are to be a lens through which workforce development, funding and deployment of workforce strategies connect individuals with transformative, high-paying careers.

By leveraging resources and partnering with organizations that hold complementary missions, AccelerateMS is working to ensure Mississippi has a world-class workforce with quality career opportunities to create sustained individual, community and statewide economic prosperity.”

Miller is assisted by part-time employees Yolanda Boone and Bill Renick and a team of full-time employees in areas around the state.

“The state areas are different and we must speak to that with our economic system structure,” he said. “We have people living in these areas to tell us about job opportunities, school programs and and other things to help us know how to leverage partnerships and where to put funds. We have a great team who have a passion for helping.”

Community colleges throughout the state are involved with AccelerateMS. Workforce programs at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, for example, include GIS Helpdesk Tier 1 Support, Electric Lineworker, Welding Workforce Training, and Telecommunications Tower Technician along with some health care programs. MGCCC offers a variety of no-cost programs through AccelerateMS grants and in partnership with local industry that provide essential training for individuals in South Mississippi.

Miller lists the sectors with the most needs across the state as health care at every level, advanced manufacturing and mecatronics which is how to program and control different manufacturing equipment.

“A lot of companies are looking at Mississippi for highly skilled jobs and workers. So much of it is driven by computer technology,” he said, “and it will increase. We don't fully understand and are trying to get a lot of that into schools early as kids are exploring what they want to do.”

The AccelerateMS team made a strategic decision to develop three topical areas. The first is workforce triage to work with community colleges to address needs such as the diesel technology program. The second is horizon thinking to see what's coming and prepare career technology education—the old vo tech programs. An example is the training now required by Nissan as they shift their manufacturing to electric vehicles. And third is customizable training or how to be better partners with economic developers.

“The most popular program of horizon thinking are career coaches to help high school students understand what's available,” Miller says. “Half of the schools have it now and the goal is for all to have it.”

Mississippi Development Authority collaborates with AccelerateMS to help find workforce training solutions for the state’s corporate partners.

“We begin working with the Accelerate team when we may have a potential new location or expansion coming down the pipeline, and we work with them as existing companies address their unique training needs as industry demands change,” said MDA Deputy Executive Director Laura Hipp. “Mississippi has always been laser focused on developing a workforce for the future. Now, with AccelerateMS at the helm, MDA gladly supports the organization as it works towards its sole mission of providing world-class training solutions for industries throughout the state.”

She praised the new state agency for the work they're doing.

“Building that workforce is the sole mission of Accelerate. Successful economic development involves a lot of moving parts; it is a very fluid process, and what works for one business might be the polar opposite for another business’ needs.”

Looking at traditional sectors and emerging sectors and high-tech jobs such as the Blue Economy, Hipp said, “Ocean Aero is a Blue Economy company that produces ocean-going autonomous underwater and surface vehicles. This is a sector MDA is targeting heavily for future growth. We also are seeing significant growth in aerospace with companies locating at or near Stennis Space Center to produce rockets and rocket components. These high-tech jobs are rapidly increasing in demand and that momentum shows no signs of slowing down.”

AccelerateMS recently recognized Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College President Dr. Mary S. Graham as the first AccelerateMS Champion of the Year in recognition of her dedication in providing quality education and training in communities throughout the college district.

“It’s an honor to be selected as the inaugural AccelerateMS Champion of the Year,” Graham said. “Our workforce team at MGCCC does such an amazing job training for our partners on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

Miller says AccelerateMS is helping set an expectation course for the state.

“Mississippi is making incredible strides but it will take time to get it right and we welcome all community and industry leaders and policy makers to participate.”


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