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Budget cuts would devastate workforce training programs

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Feb. 5, 2001
Members of the State Workforce Development Council say a proposed large cut in their budget would leave business and industry to bear the brunt of the cost workforce training program.
Holder and Donnie Smith, local Workforce District Council member, made their comments in an editorial board interview with The Meridian Star.
The state Workforce Development Council was formed by the 1994 Workforce Education Act. The council helps to guide state agencies and educational institutions on what issues need to be addressed in order make transitions easier from school to work.
A group of 15 district councils, based at community colleges, blankets the state to evaluate the issues local businesses and industry want addressed and report those findings back the the state council for local implementation through the community colleges.
Smith said some individual programs in Meridian have developed because of the district's workforce council, including the Math First program at Meridian Community College, which focuses on educational enhancement issues designed to better prepare the area's population for industry jobs.
Holder says workforce training offers companies a less expensive way of training employees in order to allow the companies more potential for growth.
With the announcement that Nissan plans to open a new manufacturing plant in Canton, bringing potentially thousands of new jobs to the state, Smith said the proposed budget cuts couldn't come at a worse time.
According to Smith, at least 15 new companies may move into the state to give direct support to Nissan and those companies will employ somewhere between 100 to 400 people each.
Holder said another potential problem that is facing the state because of Nissan's move may be a vacuum effect on existing industries where Nissan pulls qualified employees from older companies leaving smaller industries searching for more qualified employees.
Holder said the lack of financial backing from the state for the workforce training program is part of a continuing trend.
Last year alone community colleges in the state trained over 139,000 employees in specific programs or for specific applications, Holder said.
According to Holder, if Mississippi hopes to achieve a booming economy then a trained workforce is the foundation on which it has to be built.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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