/Mississippi makes mad dash to ‘ReSkill’ workers before the end of the year

Mississippi makes mad dash to ‘ReSkill’ workers before the end of the year

Federal law mandates that the state spend its COVID-19 relief money, including $55million to provide workforce training through ReSkill MS program, before the end the year. The state has set aside $49 million for community colleges. These are the main job training institutions in the state. This money will be used to purchase equipment to help them expand their programs, learn remotely, and provide tuition vouchers for Mississippians with low income. Payroll subsidies of up to $4.7 million may be available for employers who agree to train new employees or conduct on-the job training. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 132,800 Mississippians were still looking for work after the unprecedented job losses of March and April caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts in workforce management acknowledge that ReSkill MS will not make a significant impact on Mississippi’s low-skilled workforce. The money must be spent before the end of the year. It will not pay tuition for short-term programs. These are often limited options and may only provide a minimum wage. Patrick Sullivan, the president of Mississippi Energy Institute, and the chairman of the State Workforce Investment Board said he would love to see investments in long-term training programs that lead to high-paying careers in highly-demanded fields. He stated that he had discussed with other economic leaders the possibility of using workforce funds to cover trainees’ living expenses. This would make it more affordable for people who have families to support. Sullivan stated that “that would have been ideal.” The problem is the CARES Act’s restrictions. It is necessary to have all funds available by the end the year. It limits your options for actual training programs.” This initiative was launched in August. According to reports to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (the state’s leading employment agency), 527 people had been enrolled in the program by September. The majority of these participants are located on the east side of the state. However, the Delta region has zero enrollments, due to its history of low participation and sparse development. Mitzi Woods is the workforce director at the South Delta Planning and Development District. She oversees ReSkill MS in Delta. Woods stated in an email that “The Delta is doing well, it’s just that Mississippi Delta Community College was the only college that included any short term training requests in their request for CARES funds.” The fact that most of the spending is controlled by individual community colleges is indicative of what officials call a fragmented and poorly coordinated workforce development delivery system. This results in very different opportunities for each region. In an effort to improve the organization of the workforce around a common vision, lawmakers passed a bill this year. They also required more reporting about how money was spent. Lt. Governor said, “I fear we might have duplication of effort.” Delbert Hosemann was the one who helped to usher in the bill on workforce, which was authored by Senator David Parker, R.Olive Branch. The $55 million in pandemic aid money flows through four entities known as the Local Workforce Development Areas. These are run by four planning and development districts located in four regions of Mississippi: the Delta (north Mississippi), south Mississippi (central and southwest Mississippi), and the Delta (north Mississippi). Nearly 5,200 tuition vouchers have been requested by community colleges from across the state. This would provide funding for about half the state’s workforce. The total cost is $4.4 million or 10%. By August 31, they had spent just $50,000. According to a Mississippi Today analysis, 10 colleges from ReSkill MS reported that the top-demanded vouchers were for a virtual nursing program and welding. Mississippi’s home health aides, which are the most common job in Mississippi and employ nearly 18,000 people, make an average of $9.85 an hour. According to labor statistics, assistant nurses make $11.11, phlebotomists make $13.77, emergency medical technicians earn $15.08, and welders make $19.95. According to the MIT living wages calculator, the living wage is the amount required to provide for one’s family. It is $11.53 an hour. The living wage rises to $21.94 an hour if you add one child to the household. Nearly 44 percent Mississippi’s children live in single-parent homes, with most not earning a living wage. Some short-term training programs can still be valuable to workers, especially for those who are not likely to return to traditional four-year educational institutions. Carol Burnett, director at the Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative, and Moore Community House, the women in construction program on the coast, said that. Burnett stated, “I think it is difficult to get people to learn about the program, enroll, get in, and complete the program by December 31st.” Burnett stated that working mothers and those who want to take part in training may face difficulties if they don’t have the resources to provide child care, particularly if their children attend a district that offers distance learning. The community colleges also requested $44.2 million to purchase equipment in addition to tuition vouchers for students. The reports show that they had spent less than one quarter million on equipment as of August 31. Due to time constraints, the CARES Act funding won’t allow community colleges to get all they need. This is dependent on availability. Coahoma Community College requested almost $1.4 Million worth of equipment, including forklifts, welding stations and virtual training simulators. According to the report, Coahoma Community College requested more equipment than was available to cover costs. The state will use $4.7 million to provide payroll subsidies to businesses that agree to train and hire people who have been displaced by the virus. As long as the employer pays more than $15 an hour while they provide on-the-job training, 75% of a new employee’s salary will be paid by the state. Workers earning less than $15 per hour may be eligible for 50% subsidy. Local Workforce Development Areas distribute this money and connect workers to jobs based on the employer’s need. Bill Renick oversees Mississippi Partnership. He said that jobs in the service sector aren’t returning as fast as they did before. He said that furniture sales have increased so much that many north Mississippi furniture manufacturers are “begging” people to work for them. On average, Mississippi furniture finishers earn $14.21 an hour. The local workforce areas have so far enrolled 239 workers in on-the job training and identified employers that they will subsidize with nearly $1.3million. Renick’s group is the most prominent with 148 workers enrolled, and $616.654 obligated to companies. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security, however, removed the names of employers from the reports it provided to Mississippi Today. This protected the identities of taxpayer-funded companies. According to the agency, a state law appears to provide confidentiality for any employer whose information is obtained from it. The most recent reports for the week ended Sept. 5 were not released by the agency. However, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that the state has reached 2,071 total participants in the program on Thursday. ReSkill Mississippi has already helped thousands of Mississippians. Reeves stated in a release that we have increased the training capacity at our community colleges system and that he encourages any Mississippian who wants a better job to enroll. I encourage more companies to register and get cost assistance for employees who receive on-the job training. The overall administration of ReSkill MS will cost $1.1million. The state will redirect any CARES Act funds to its unemployment trust fund if they are not used by the end of the year to avoid having to pay money back to the federal governments. Sullivan stated that the bottom line was to connect people with possibilities. This is a great opportunity for 2020. However, the way I see it, is that we need to be more consistent in doing these types of things as a state. Because there was a need before COVID.” Workers interested in job training are encouraged to visit reskillms.com. Fill out a contact form and the Local Workforce Development Area will receive it. These quasi-governmental employees, which receive millions of federal workforce development dollars, reach out to workers to assess their needs and place them in a job or program.