July 27, 2016, Northeast Mississippi Community College President (NEMCC), Ricky Ford welcomed participants to the Smart Start Cross-Training Conference at NE at Corinth. Director of Adult Basic Education and WIOA Youth Pam Meeks and Vice President of Workforce Nadara Cole, organized this conference to highlight the new Mississippi Works Smart Start Career Pathway Model. The model is part of the Mississippi Combined Plan developed by the State Workforce Investment Board Office of the Governor to streamline and improve the existing workforce system; the aim is to close the “middle-skill job gap and increase workforce participation rates.” The “middle-skill” job gap exists in the state of Mississippi because only 37.1% of the state workforce have the necessary skills for 66.3% of middle-skill-level jobs. Governor Phil Bryant’s plan is to “create a workforce system so that every Mississippian has the opportunity to be work- or career-ready and secure his or her dream job right here at home.”
Ms. Pam Meeks overviewed the conference by explaining how the NEMCC Department of Workforce and Economic Development would work diligently with all primary state education and workforce partners to implement the new Mississippi Combined Plan. The new plan “integrates programs and improves efficiency in service delivery across partners, with a particular focus on individuals with barriers to employment.” The conference was the first of many future collaborations between NEMCC Workforce education programs and local workforce partners such as: Area Agency on Aging (AAA), Department of Human Services (DHS), Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES), Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), and the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services (MDRS).
Local workforce education programs and local workforce partners commit to work together implementing the State Smart Start Career Pathway Model which is composed of three career pathways: Smart Start Pathway, Career/Technical Pathway, and Work Ready Pathway. The state integrated pathway model is a cross-program highlighting non-duplicative assessments, non-duplicative skills, and non-duplicative assets. Pathway program innovates and streamlines individualized education and multiple entry/exit points. A state approved and industry recognized credential will be awarded to Smart Start Pathway Completers; skills training and education equips Mississippians to exit immediately after program completion and move quickly into high demand jobs.