A local coalition led by Workforce Mid-South was today awarded $21.5 million through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Good Jobs Challenge to expand economic mobility opportunities across the region. Through the Mid-South Center for Occupational Innovation (MCOI), under the Workforce Mid-South umbrella, this group will establish three transformative one-stop Accelerated Skills Training (AST) Centers serving East Arkansas, North Mississippi, and West Tennessee.
The AST Centers will deliver rapid credentialing opportunities through programs of the same quality as traditional education models but in less time – four to 24 weeks. Three sectoral partnerships, each led by a backbone organization representing the area's high-growth advanced manufacturing, logistics technology, and construction sectors have been created, formalizing alignment across regional boundaries and state lines and creating the optimal ecosystem for job seekers and employers.
Tennessee is generous in its funding for post-secondary opportunities through Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Re-connect; however, these traditional models are not designed for the adult learner or learners who are not in the traditional linear educational path. Those individuals with financial obligations and families not able to take themselves out of the job market for a prolonged period or to pursue a 12-24 month credential program.
“At the end of the day, all the good policy and programs in the world are meaningless if real people who need them most can’t access them. Through this opportunity we hope to transform the way in which we design and create accessible on-ramps to opportunity across the region” says Workforce Mid-South President Kyla Guyette. “The ways in which we deliver content and services has to keep up with the ways the world is transforming. Through our work in the American Job Centers, we know that people are choosing training opportunities based on the length of the programs and not based on the lifelong desire for that career field. Instead of changing the learner/job seeker, why aren’t we changing the education model?”
The MCOI Advisory Board will be composed of stakeholders, business representatives, training partners, and leaders from across the geographic footprint. Each industry sector will, in turn, organize a Sector Council led by the Backbone Entity of that sector and comprise members from sector business leaders, education, government, non-profits, and workforce system partners to ensure alignment.
In these sector-based partnerships, stakeholders are coming together to create efficient, effective, stackable, and portable credentialing programs designed to address the unique needs of participants, meet the employer’s skills needs, fill anticipated vacancies for high-paying jobs, and combat the region’s economic stagnation, creating greater economic mobility and growth.
The Greater Memphis Chamber will serve as the backbone organization for the Advanced Manufacturing sector, The University of Memphis will backbone the logistics Technology sector and Moore Tech will backbone the Construction and Skills Trades sector. Coalition partners include a cross-section of the mid-south including local workforce boards across three states, 295 individual employers (including Ford, FedEx, Stanley Black & Decker, Turner Construction, Rose Construction and the Memphis Medical Device Council), local government, MATA, Seeding Success, LeMoyne-Owen, Lane College, the University of Mississippi and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning to name a few.
"This is a pivotal moment in workforce development for the Memphis region," said Amity Schuyler, senior vice president of Workforce Development for the Greater Memphis Chamber. "This grant provides much-needed on-ramps for adults seeking to upskill with industry certifications they need to succeed in the industries that drive our economy. We can expect this grant, along with the $25 million Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant recently awarded to the University of Memphis, to significantly disrupt generational poverty and finally providing a long-denied path to the middle-class for so many in the Mid-South. Improved literacy, increased education attainment, and better health rates for our community are also on the horizon as increases in household incomes have many positive correlations to improving these disparities. Employers in the region and businesses looking to call Memphis home should also celebrate this announcement. I truly believe that Memphis will ultimately boast the most skilled and robust workforce of all metros in the U.S."
As the fiscal and administrative entity for the Greater Memphis Local Workforce Development Area, Workforce Mid-South believes individuals and communities prosper when residents have access to gainful employment and businesses have access to a skilled workforce.
Through programs, partnerships with providers across the region, and the oversight of the American Job Center (AJC) network, Workforce Mid-South ensures job seekers have access to opportunities and the skills employers need. (www.workforcemidsouth.com)