Workforce

About me, MEI’s Summer Intern

Hi! My name is Mimi, I am 18 years old, and I just graduated from St. Andrews Episcopal School.  I plan on attending Mississippi State University in the fall of 2016 to study chemical engineering (Hail State!), and I was lucky enough to land an intern opportunity with MEI’s Get on the Grid program before I go back to school. I’ve been at MEI for just over two weeks now and my experience here has really demonstrated to me the importance of energy & manufacturing in Mississippi. I am relatively unfamiliar with any job for my age group that revolves around the energy field, so being able to work for MEI has become an amazing learning opportunity as I begin my adult life.

 

Having just graduated high school, I am fully aware of the significance of planning out a career path before going to college. As I continue to work with Get on the Grid I keep thinking about how remarkable it is to have a website that creates a career path for you, gives you all the necessary information about said career path, and ensures that you follow through with that path. Get on the Grid MS in combination with the vast amount of energy related jobs available in Mississippi could very well become one the solutions to unemployment on our state.

 

Now I know what some of you are thinking, why should I care about the intern’s opinion of Get on the Grid? I did just graduate high school, and I am no engineer (yet) nor am I an expert at unemployment solutions. But I am a student, and having just gone through the college selection process I fully understand the importance of career planning. If I had been given a website like Get on the Grid at an earlier age not only would I have developed a more keen understanding of jobs in energy and manufacturing, but I also would have explored more potential college opportunities in the sector.

 

Basically Get on the Grid not only broadens the horizons of careers for new students, but it also has the potential to give stable jobs to an entire generation of young adults simply by demonstrating the impact of energy related occupations. Because I am a student, a recent high school graduate, and an intern I believe that I am capable of delivering an honest analysis of Get on the Grid because it applies to my age group. Ultimately Get on the Grid is an effective website that needs to be utilized by the young minds of Mississippi, and I could not be more excited to intern for such an impressive program.

Energy and Manufacturing Sector Workforce Awareness

Energy in Mississippi is a sector that “punches above its weight” for Mississippi.

  • Jobs in energy and energy-related subsectors of the Mississippi economy paid an average salary of $63,456 in 2010, a figure 89.3% higher than the average private sector wage of $33,524.
  • The energy sector accounted for 22,035 direct private sector jobs in Mississippi, or 2.6% of the private sector workforce.
  • 74% of the state’s energy work force is in electric power transmission and distribution and in resource development and extraction.
  • While national energy sector employment has declined 4% from 2001-2012, Mississippi’s energy workforce has grown by 3%, with most of the growth attributed to jobs related to power transmission and distribution and oil extraction and refining.
  • Total private sector employment experienced a -5.8% change from 2001-2010, while the total energy cluster experienced a 2.9% increase during the same time period in Mississippi.
  • Topping the list of highest average Mississippi wages in 2010 was refineries with $100,870, followed by power generation with $91,962, Management of Companies and Enterprises with $70,636 and Extraction/Resource Development with $67,337.

Delta Workforce Funding Collaborative Builds Mississippi’s Economy

Last month, MEI President Patrick Sullivan attended the National Fund for Workforce Solutions conference in Baltimore, MD to receive an award alongside Foundation for the Mid-South in honor of our collaborative workforce development efforts. See what Patrick had to say about how creating workforce awareness will enhance MS’s economy.

The Latest in Mississippi’s Workforce Development News

5,000 Students Graduate with Mississippi Scholars or Tech Master Distinction

Get On The Grid and the Mississippi Scholars and Tech Master Programs share many similar goals, with the top priority being encouraging Mississippi’s youth to research and pursue careers in STEM fields and to be college- and career-ready. Recently, over 5,000 graduating seniors were recognized by the Mississippi Economic Council  through its Mississippi Scholars and Mississippi Scholars Tech Master programs. Read more here.

Mississippi Teacher of the Year 2015 Crafts Lesson Plans for Get on the Grid

Tyndall

Rebecca Tyndall presents Get on the Grid to a room full of educators at the Mississippi Council on Economic Education’s conference.

Get on the Grid is web resource for students, adults, and parents to inform and educate them on the in-demand, well-paying careers available in energy and advanced manufacturing.
As part of this awareness effort, we had Rebecca Tyndall, the MS Council on Economic Education 2014 Economics Teacher of the Year, craft together a lesson plan to be used  in schools across the state. See the lesson plans for middle and high schoolers here.

 

Horn Lake to Open Vo-Tech Center in August

DeSoto County is making strides in promoting career-technical educational opportunities for its students with the construction of its Horn Lake Vo-Tech Center. Set to open in August, the $12 million facility will offer programs in areas such as automotive, metal and welding, carpentry and culinary. It partners with Northwest Mississippi Community College to continue instruction there. Read more here. 

Kids These Days…

Let me start by saying that never in my 25 years did I expect to utter those words before the age of 85. I have grand plans of being a cool old lady; referring to people under 18 as “those kids” screams, “Get off my lawn!” not, “Here’s an extra $20 for gas.” But I digress.

I had the opportunity this month to set up a Get On The Grid booth at a vocational fair in Leakesville Junior High School. As I drove the final 31 miles behind a chicken trailer down two-lane Highway 98, I told myself that while it was possible none of the kids would pay attention to me, I definitely had the best candy. I don’t know a single 14-year-old who can refuse a Snickers, so perhaps I could sneak in career information between bites and no one would be the wiser.

But I’m here to tell you, ladies and gents, kids these days… are bright, engaging, and already planning their futures. In a chaotic gymnasium full of athletic hoodies and raging hormones, my table was full of kids pumping me for information.

 

photo (12)

Two Greene County students signing up to receive more information on Get on the Grid.

“What is Get On The Grid?”

“My cousin is a welder on the coast. I’ve been thinking getting into that, too.”

“Can I make money if I don’t go to college?”

“Do you have something I can look at later when I get home?”

Of course, you have the occasional interaction with a confused student. One guy asked where I worked, and before I could finish, “Mississippi Energy Institute,” he turned and yelled across the gym at his friend. “Hey bro! This lady says she does energy. Maybe you could talk to her and lose some weight!” I hid behind my laptop and explained, “That’s not exactly the same kind of energy.” The poor guy looked genuinely defeated and said, “Oh. Well I didn’t know, he’s just my friend and he’s always talking about how he wants to be skinny. I just wanted to help.” Bless his heart. May we all have friends who care for our well-being, and may they never shout our deepest fears across a crowded gym.

By the end of the morning, I was able to walk over 100 students through the website. They were genuinely intrigued, especially by the videos and salary information, and almost all asked for more information. We were also listed as “Most Interesting Booth” on several survey sheets. That part may actually have been the Snickers, but I like to think not.

Moral of the story: kids these days are acutely aware of the world around them. They take in career information like sponges, and resources like Get On The Grid spark their very visual minds. Invested educators are taking advantage of resources like Get On The Grid to prove to their students that professional career possibilities are right in their home state—even in their own backyards.

A special thanks to Dawn Wallace and Dr. Tom Wallace for inviting MEI to participate in their wildly successful career day and to educators across the state who are just as invested in the futures of their students. If you would like to bring Get On The Grid to a school or career fair near you, contact me at mgunn@mei.ms or (601) 351-9891. I can’t wait to get to know your students and to work with you to build the next generation of successful Mississippians.

The 24-Year-Old with the 140K Salary

On January 7, 2015, the Wall Street Journal ran a story highlighting Justin Friend, a 24-year-old welder in Texas. The below is written by Meredith Gunn of the Mississippi Energy Institute.

Could the key to spurring development in industrial America and increasing household incomes be as simple as rewriting the dialogue about technical careers?

Justin Friend and I have a lot in common. He’s 24, I’m 25. His parents graduated from college and went on to become college professors; mine graduated from college and are an attorney and an entrepreneur. He’s interested in engines and how things work, and I’m handy in the sense that I enjoy a good pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching MythBusters (it’s practically the same).

A few differences, though: Justin knew from an early age that he wanted to work with his hands, whilst I always had my nose in a book. Justin decided in junior high to take welder training courses, and put that early education to use mending fences for his neighbors. The most money I ever got out of my neighbors was from a poorly-constructed lemonade stand shut down within the first hour of that scorching July afternoon. Justin knew that a two-year training program at Texas State Technical College was the golden ticket to his dream job. I settled on a major sometime around second semester of my sophomore year at a four-year, private institution, and then went to grad school. Justin makes over $140,000/year at his job, and I… don’t.

Let’s make this clear: I love my alma maters and my advanced degree. I’m in a field that plays to my strengths and where I can grow. The problem is, I can’t say for certain that everyone around me feels the same way because we didn’t talk about it. When I came through—six long years ago—there was one road to the American Dream, and it usually led through a liberal arts college and sported a fancy price tag.

So how did Justin have it all figured out? Perhaps, it was the conversations he had. His parents recognized his struggles in the classroom and his knack for mechanics. They, along with his educators, encouraged him to try careers in line with his strengths while he was still young so that by the time college came, he had a better idea of what he wanted to do—and he’d already made money doing it.

Could the key to spurring American innovation and increasing our overall standard of living be as simple as rewriting the dialogue about technical careers? If we created an environment that encouraged more career exploration in middle school—when the stakes are low—would we see an increased percentage of high school graduates? If we removed the stigma of “dirty jobs” from those who are fortunate enough to work in jeans, would we see increased enrollment in training programs for these well-paying careers?

The data suggests that we would. To quote the article about Justin, “nearly a third of people aged 22 through 25 with a Bachelor of Arts degree either don’t have a job or are working at one that doesn’t require a university degree.” In comparison, the Texas State Technical College, for example, has seen a 70% increase in enrollment from just three years ago, and “most of its welding students secure jobs before they graduate.” Jobs do not ensure financial freedom, as my newly-graduated peers will quickly tell you. US student loan debt is up to $1.13 trillion as of September 30, 2014. Meanwhile, Justin has relatively no student loan debt, minimal expenses, and a brand new $53,000 Ford F-250. My 12-year-old Honda is crying with embarrassment.

Bottom line: everyone has different strengths. I’m certainly not suggesting we minimize four-year degrees or positions for college grads (Dear Lord, please don’t! This girl has to eat). What I am saying is that a different dialogue would likely increase early recognition and encouragement of everyone’s strengths—especially those that pay 2-3 times what the rest of the private sector is making. Let’s change the conversation from college-only to college-optional, and see if that doesn’t motivate our next generation of well-paid professionals. Mississippi’s economic future may just depend on it.

Unemployment Rate Among College Graduates Under 25

Unemployment Rate Among College Graduates Under 25

Class of 2014
Average debt per borrower in each year’s graduating class.

Class of 2014 Average debt per borrower in each year's graduating class.

Have You Heard about the 24-Year-Old Welder with a 140K Salary?

On January 7, 2015, the Wall Street Journal ran a story highlighting Justin Friend, a 24-year-old welder in Texas. The below is written by Meredith Gunn of the Mississippi Energy Institute.

Could the key to spurring development in industrial America and increasing household incomes be as simple as rewriting the dialogue about technical careers?

Justin Friend and I have a lot in common. He’s 24, I’m 25. His parents graduated from college and went on to become college professors; mine graduated from college and are an attorney and an entrepreneur. He’s interested in engines and how things work, and I’m handy in the sense that I enjoy a good pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching MythBusters (it’s practically the same).

A few differences, though: Justin knew from an early age that he wanted to work with his hands, whilst I always had my nose in a book. Justin decided in junior high to take welder training courses, and put that early education to use mending fences for his neighbors. The most money I ever got out of my neighbors was from a poorly-constructed lemonade stand shut down within the first hour of that scorching July afternoon. Justin knew that a two-year training program at Texas State Technical College was the golden ticket to his dream job. I settled on a major sometime around second semester of my sophomore year at a four-year, private institution, and then went to grad school. Justin makes over $140,000/year at his job, and I… don’t.

Let’s make this clear: I love my alma maters and my advanced degree. I’m in a field that plays to my strengths and where I can grow. The problem is, I can’t say for certain that everyone around me feels the same way because we didn’t talk about it. When I came through—six long years ago—there was one road to the American Dream, and it usually led through a liberal arts college and sported a fancy price tag.

So how did Justin have it all figured out? Perhaps, it was the conversations he had. His parents recognized his struggles in the classroom and his knack for mechanics. They, along with his educators, encouraged him to try careers in line with his strengths while he was still young so that by the time college came, he had a better idea of what he wanted to do—and he’d already made money doing it.

Could the key to spurring American innovation and increasing our overall standard of living be as simple as rewriting the dialogue about technical careers? If we created an environment that encouraged more career exploration in middle school—when the stakes are low—would we see an increased percentage of high school graduates? If we removed the stigma of “dirty jobs” from those who are fortunate enough to work in jeans, would we see increased enrollment in training programs for these well-paying careers?

The data suggests that we would. To quote the article about Justin, “nearly a third of people aged 22 through 25 with a Bachelor of Arts degree either don’t have a job or are working at one that doesn’t require a university degree.” In comparison, the Texas State Technical College, for example, has seen a 70% increase in enrollment from just three years ago, and “most of its welding students secure jobs before they graduate.” Jobs do not ensure financial freedom, as my newly-graduated peers will quickly tell you. US student loan debt is up to $1.13 trillion as of September 30, 2014. Meanwhile, Justin has relatively no student loan debt, minimal expenses, and a brand new $53,000 Ford F-250. My 12-year-old Honda is crying with embarrassment.

Bottom line: everyone has different strengths. I’m certainly not suggesting we minimize four-year degrees or positions for college grads (Dear Lord, please don’t! This girl has to eat).

What I am saying is that a different dialogue would likely increase early recognition and encouragement of everyone’s strengths—especially those that pay 2-3 times what the rest of the private sector is making. Let’s change the conversation from college-only to college-optional, and see if that doesn’t motivate our next generation of well-paid professionals. Mississippi’s economic future may just depend on it.

Unemployment Rate Among College Graduates Under 25

Unemployment Rate Among College Graduates Under 25

Class of 2014
Average debt per borrower in each year’s graduating class.

Class of 2014 Average debt per borrower in each year's graduating class.
 

The Future of Automotive Manufacturing Could be Ideal for Mississippi 

“Automotive manufacturing” often brings to mind gritty black and white images of greasy factory floors and jumpsuits hammering out cars in a Henry-Ford-era assembly line.  And while manufacturing itself still requires a good bit of brains and brawn, the scales have definitely tipped in favor of smart technology and clean workspaces.

The Detroit News recently released an article on the workforce skills gap created by the high pace of technological advancement in automotive manufacturing.  Companies are starting to use complex technologies such as Google Glass and other forms of “wearable technology” to monitor not only the status of machines on the shop floor, but also the well-being of other workers.  The result is a more efficient, safer work environment.

In Mississippi, these improvements could play a particularly interesting role in our automotive manufacturing workforce training and hiring processes, particularly for major players like Toyota and Nissan.  While production efficiency will likely run its usual cycle of lower prices and fewer workers, this could actually be beneficial in a state like Mississippi.  Lower prices play well to consumers, and a large percentage of the decrease in hiring needs will be consumed by the high volume of workers expected to retire over the next 5-10 years.  In other words, we can meet the demands of a new, highly skilled workforce by highlighted the importance of skilled vocational training in our next generation.  This is great news for Mississippi and its automotive industry leaders.

Did You Know? 

In December 2013, the BLS released its U.S. employment projections for 2012 through 2022.  Two-thirds of the 30 occupations with the largest projected employment increase over this time period typically do not require a college degree for entry.

 

Energy & Manufacturing Jobs Offer Greatest Economic Impact

Fact:  Mississippi’s energy and advanced manufacturing sectors need more skilled workers to accommodate future growth, and aggressive economic growth goals require more robust, sector-specific workforce development.   These sectors need a variety of skilled tradesmen such as welders, industrial technicians, machinists, electrical engineering technicians, linemen, utility technicians, and engineers.  For a significant portion of high-demand skills, educational requirements may be a high school diploma and on the job training, and most of these positions pay well above private sector jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms and quantifies these exact needs.  In 2013, Mississippi Energy Institute interviewed a number of energy and manufacturing executives in Mississippi.  The table and figures below detail some of the specific positions identified by Mississippi employers, with a majority of the positions requiring only a technical-level education. Many interesting comparisons can be made between the energy and statewide job markets.  For example, of the 3,140 net new jobs added between 2012 and 2013, 2,400 (or 76.4%) of them involved one of the above-listed energy-based segments.  The numbers clearly show the importance of the energy sector to job creation in Mississippi.

In addition to the greater number of jobs, the energy sector also boasts a significant increase in sustainable income for its employees.  Shown below, the average income for these technical careers in the energy sector of $46,810 is 33% greater than the average income for the total MS job market of $35,310.  Indeed, if Mississippi workers capitalize upon the substantial opportunities available, the state could see a significant boom in energy-based economic development and an increase in household incomes.

Table 1

Job Title

# Jobs in MS (2012)

 Average Wage

 # Jobs in MS (2013)

% Growth

Chemical Equipment Operator

670

 $45,060

 860

28%

Chemical Technician

340

 $39,980

 400

18%

Electrical Engineering Technician

1,140

 $53,680

 1,340

18%

Gas Plant Operator

120

 $58,660

 50

-58%

Industrial Engineering Technician

310

 $46,730

 330

6%

Industrial Machinery Mechanics

2,710

 $48,550

 3,240

20%

Machinists

1,680

 $38,290

 1,980

18%

Plant and System Operators, Chemical

180

 $45,400

 480

167%

Plant and System Operators, Other

40

 $52,290

 40

0%

Welders

5,870

 $39,460

 6,740

15%

Total Sector

13,060

 $46,810

 15,460

23%

Total MS Employment

1,080,420

 $35,310

 1,083,560

0.29%

Figure 1

NewJobsBreakdown

Figure 2

AverageWagesEnergySector

Sources Cited

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2012 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mississippi, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oes/2012/may/oes_ms.htm (visited April 11, 2014).

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mississippi, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ms.htm (visited April 11, 2014).

 

Internal MEI documents

STEM Skills Crucial At All Levels of Employment

The Brookings Institute, a non-profit, independent research organization, recently released an analysis of workforce and employment data.  Among many findings, several mirror trends we are seeing today in Mississippi and regional markets, including the overriding argument that the demand for workers with high STEM skills is growing faster than that for those with any other skill set.  As a result of this increased demand, Brookings maintains, “it follows that increased training in STEM fields like computer science and medicine will ease hiring for employers and lead to high-paying career paths for workers.”[i]

In 2010, companies nationwide reported having difficulty filling 14% of positions that required STEM training.  From 2011-2012, that number skyrocketed to 50%.  Though it has since hit a plateau around 40%, companies are still at a loss to find appropriately skilled workers.  An aging manufacturing workforce further complicates the matter, with the average skilled laborer around 56 years old.[ii]

So aside from national averages, what does that look like in Mississippi, or more specifically, the Metro Jackson area? Brookings released those findings, too:

  • Employers were scrambling to fill 2,266 jobs in Q1 of 2013 alone.
  • The average salary for these positions was $55,730—around $28/hour.
  • 12.7% of the jobs only required a high school diploma.
  • 21.1% of the jobs required a certificate or equivalent, minimal college education.
  • 33.8% of the jobs required a STEM-intensive degree, such as engineering.
  • The 2nd highest paid positions in demand were computer and math positions at $66,721—more than business, management, and finance positions.
  • The 5th most in-demand positions were engineers at $60,862—besting healthcare practitioners and sales positions.
  • All production jobs (i.e., technicians, welders, pipefitters, etc.) came in at #13 and $51,578—more than office administrators, farmers, and construction workers.

Bottom line: STEM-intensive jobs are at the top of the most in-demand and highest-paying occupations in the state of Mississippi, more than many other traditional careers.  If we are to see growth in our statewide economy and individual standards of living, then it is time to give these professional careers the attention and consideration they merit.