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MCEP Growing Construction Trades by Training Students

Feb. 22, 2023

Source: Mississippi Business Journal, By Lisa Monti

Brent Bean, left, is president of the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation

Right now in Mississippi there are 100,000 job openings for welders, masons, electricians and heavy equipment operators, among other trades.

The Mississippi Construction Education Foundation is on a mission to steer more high school and community college students into construction trade programs to help fill those openings and at the same time kickstart what could become a career for young Mississippians.

“We are trying to get students to understand that working as a carpenter or an electrician is not just a job Construction is truly an industry where you can have a very successful career,” said MCEF President Brent Bean. “Even though you may start out making $18 an hour, with hard work and a desire to work your way up, you can become a foreman or start your own business.”

MCEF, a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 by major contractors and affiliated associations, partners with the state Department of Education in its work.

“Our sole purpose is to recruit, train and promote the construction industry,” Bean said.

MCEF’s board of directors includes representatives of such organizations as Associated General Contractors, Mississippi Road Builders Association, Home Builders Association, Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Women in Construction.

The biggest need now for Mississippi’s contractors is general craft laborers who are just getting into the construction field.

“A lot of baby boomers in the trades are getting ready to retire and some are holding on because there are not enough (workers) coming up behind them to take the reins,” said Bean.

About 5,400 students are enrolled in MCEF’s programs at 113 high schools across the state and another 1,700 in the state’s 15 community colleges. The high school and community college programs use the same national curricula.

“We are working hand in hand with instructors, trying to educate students about the opportunities available in the construction industry in the state,” Bean said.

MCEF provides National Center for Construction Education and Research craft training and credentialing in more than 100 career and technical programs across the state. The nonprofit also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades.

A new feature that rolled out this year is MCEF’s secure database website called COIN which will match students with companies looking for new employees. Bean said students finishing up their studies create a profile and upload their resume which contractors can access, evaluate and follow up with a job interview.

“We hope this is a true conduit between those training and those doing the hiring. It’s a really big opportunity and a plus for everybody,” Bean said, adding that he is encouraged by the early response by students who are uploading their resumes.

Bean, who took over as president of MCEF last June, said the nonprofit has a longstanding partnership with the Education Department but initially did not partner with private schools or the home schooling association. MCEF is now working to recruit those students, many in rural areas of the state and without access to Career and Technical Education, and close that gap.

“By not going to the private schools and home schoolers, we are missing a potential audience. We have a strong effort under way this year to make sure those students are aware of (construction) opportunities,” he said.

Bean said MCEF administers testing statewide based on the National Craft Assessment and Certification process to evaluate students’ knowledge and skills and upgrades training. The NCACP program was developed specifically for the construction and maintenance industries.

MCEF also is a non-union apprenticeship training sponsor with the U. S. Department of Labor that combines paid, on-the-job training with related instruction at training centers in MEDF Pearl and Gulfport. The program offers training in such trades as electrical, HVAC, plumbing and sheet metal.

“Some apprentices are driving to our MCEF adult craft training classes in company trucks, and their employers are paying for their tuition,” Bean said. “They’re earning money instead of accumulating debt, which will put them ahead of the game after they graduate."

ther craft training at the two training centers is available to adults not in an apprenticeship program. Training is offered in such trades as bricklaying, carpentry, pipefitting, cabinet making and interior finishing.

Bean said 30 years ago students were told they had to go to college to have a career and be successful, which isn’t the case at all, he said.

“Now we are trying to backtrack and make sure not only students and counselors are aware but parents too that there armor ways to be successful,” he said.

MCEF is planning a signing event March 8 for students enrolling in career training courses similar to ones that celebrate student athlete college signings.

In an earlier statement when he was named MCEF president, Bean said, “The more people know about construction trades, the more they realize that CTE is a smart investment in the future that also supports business growth and economic development right here in Mississippi.”


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