MEC Emphasizes Need for Workforce Development in Order to Help Improve State Economy

MEC Emphasizes Need for Workforce Development in Order to Help Improve State Economy

Courtesy of The Dispatch

Scott Waller, interim CEO and president of the Mississippi Economic Council, speaks to Starkville Rotarians Monday at The Mill at MSU. Waller addressed the need for workforce development to help improve Mississippi’s economy. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

Scott Waller, interim president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) recently addressed the Starkville Rotary Club. While there, he stated that Mississippi, in order to improve itself economically and rise to its potential, must begin to find new ways to continue improving its economic development; he feels that a strong focus on workforce development is the key to our future. He went on to ask his audience what they believed were the most important factors in helping our state to improve. The results were: 58% said that we need a skilled workforce more than anything else; 27% emphasized the need to improve the state’s image; and fewer than 10% of respondents said that lowering taxes, improving infrastructure, or other concserns should be the top priority.

Waller then revealed that their responses were in line with many other groups he had met with across the state, and that most people agreed that we need to help our workforce grow more skilled: “Today alone, there are over 40,000 unfilled jobs in the state of Mississippi,” Waller said. “If we don’t work on having a skilled workforce, we definitely are going to miss out on those opportunities, particularly when it comes to population growth.”

Waller also addressed an umber of other concerns from those present, but he still feels that “…[W]hat we’re learning is workforce development is probably at the top of the list as it would stand.”

To close the meeting, Waller asked what audience members what they felt was the most important aspect to make a positive impact in the community. Forty-four percent chose improving schools, which was the highest of six choices. Improving the workforce, which drew 33 percent, was the second-highest choice by far.

Waller said that strengthening the workforce is a challenge that must begin early on in life, from pre-kindergarten to lifelong learning: “What it tells me when I see these results is at least I think we’re focused on the right thing,” he said. “We’re focused on the thing that’s going to make a difference and move the needle as we move forward.”

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