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Pairing skilled workers with quality, high-paying jobs is one way to ensure Mississippi families succeed. However, limited access to skills training and low educational attainment keep many workers from securing good-paying skilled jobs. This gap between middle-skill positions and a comparably skilled workforce limits productivity for employers and access to jobs that support self-sufficiency for working families. Bridging the gap starts with investments in working families and skills-training opportunities that are accessible for all Mississippians.

THE MIDDLE-SKILL GAP Middle-skill jobs are typically technical positions, which pay higher-than-average wages and require some education or training past a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. By comparison, a low-skill job generally requires little training and has no education requirement, while a high-skill job requires significant training and a minimum of a four-year college degree. Often accompanied by reliable schedules, above average wages and benefits packages (including health care, paid time off and sick leave), full-time middleskill jobs can offer better economic security to workers and their families.


Source: National Skills Coalition, Middle-Skill Jobs State by State. 2017.

In 2015, middle-skill jobs represented 58 percent of Mississippi’s labor market (compared to 16 percent for low-skill jobs and 27 percent for high-skill jobs), yet only 50 percent of the state’s workers were trained at the middle-skill level, leaving an 8 percent gap between available workers and middle-skill jobs. Due to this shortage, employers looking to fill middle-skill positions have difficulty finding sufficiently trained workers, so positions go unfilled. The strength of the Mississippi workforce and economy depends on connecting workers with skills-training programs that put middle-skill jobs and family-sustaining wages within grasp.

MEETING THE DEMAND FOR MIDDLE-SKILL JOBS The continued need and demand for skilled workers will require sustained investment in training programs that upskill the existing workforce. Programs and policies that support skills training are vital investments in working families and the state economy. Expanding access and opportunity through skills training – with the purposeful inclusion of people of color, women and low-income populations – ensures a more economically secure Mississippi for all working families. Persistent poverty, low educational attainment levels and high unemployment rates underscore the need for innovative workforce development solutions. Two enterprising programs (Registered Apprenticeship and Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training) are currently tackling these issues in Mississippi.

Registered Apprenticeship Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs provide one avenue to connect Mississippians with jobs that earn a living wage. Registered Apprenticeship adopts an “earn and learn” training model, where apprentices split time between active, on-the-job training and rigorous classroom instruction in their chosen field. Apprentices start working from day one with a wage and receive incremental wage increases as they advance in skill. Most importantly, RA allows apprentices to receive structured, on-the-job training from a skilled mentor that makes them workforce-ready and equipped to succeed in a dynamic job market. The jobs available to workers today and the jobs of the future require education beyond high school and advanced skills. The existing RA pipeline that intakes low-skill adults and produces career-ready tradespeople addresses some of the challenges facing industry today, including: • An aging workforce of highly-skilled and experienced workers nearing retirement; • Attracting top talent to middle-skill positions and sectors; • Attracting new talent pools to skilled trades careers, including youth, people of color, and women; and • Investing in talent that can keep pace with the latest industry advancements. America’s – and Mississippi’s – economic strength depends on the skills and ingenuity of its workforce. Keeping that workforce highly trained, skilled and adaptable is paramount and Registered Apprenticeship is one way to accomplish this objective.

Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (MI-BEST) Workforce development programs can provide a roadmap out of poverty for those with limited education. The Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (MI-BEST) program – administered by Mississippi’s 15 community colleges – connects vulnerable groups, like the working poor, people of color and women workers, with the training necessary to master in-demand skills and secure gainful employment. Catering to adults without high school diplomas or equivalencies, MI-BEST blends adult basic education (ABE) and technical instruction to fast-track participants into high-demand, middle-skill careers, such as Welding, Industrial Maintenance, Healthcare Assisting, Commercial Truck Driving and Computer Programming. Personally assigned Student Navigators coordinate support services and scheduling to support academic persistence and success for each MI-BEST participant. This innovative approach provides a sturdy foundation on which participants can stack skills, specialties and industry-recognized certificates that increase their employability and earnings post-graduation. Today’s investments in workforce training programs, such as Registered Apprenticeship and Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, lay the foundation for economic opportunity and prosperity for tomorrow. The stability of Mississippi families depends on connecting skilled workers with quality, high-paying careers that help ensure long-term economic security for both families and the economy.

Hope Policy Institute serves as the policy division of HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union). Through independent analysis grounded in the experiences of HOPE’s programs and its members, the Policy Institute influences policies that affect the allocation of resources and facilitates an environment to ensure that all people prosper. The Institute’s areas of emphasis include:

Budget & Tax

Development Finance

Education & Workforce Development

Financial Inclusion

Health & Healthcare


HOPE’s intentional and translational policy approach to advocacy recognizes that while each loan and every account supported by HOPE is important, the effects are small relative to the needs of the region. Only by influencing public policies and the practices of private institutions is lasting, scalable impact achieved. | 1-866-321-HOPE (4673)

WORKS CITED Hinds Community College. MI-BEST Dashboard. Retrieved from http:// National Skills Coalition. (2017). Middle-Skill Jobs by State – Mississippi’s Forgotten Middle. Retrieved from publications/2017-middle-skills-fact-sheets/file/Mississippi-MiddleSkills.pdf U.S. Department of Labor. Employers – Why Apprenticeship is Right for Your Company. Retrieved from employers

Profile for Hope Credit Union/Hope Enterprise Corporation

Workforce fact sheet(dig)  

Pairing skilled workers with quality, high-paying jobs is one way to ensure Mississippi families succeed. However, limited access to skills...

Workforce fact sheet(dig)  

Pairing skilled workers with quality, high-paying jobs is one way to ensure Mississippi families succeed. However, limited access to skills...

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