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Mississippi Unemployment Stubborn Due to Lack of Skilled Workers for Open Jobs

By Rhonda Miller | Published 09 Jul 2011 12:16am | comments
Wildfred Bolds completed a shipfitter apprentice program at Ingalls Shipbuilding and moved into a permanent job at the Pascagoula shipyard..

The national unemployment rate rose a notch to 9.2 percent in June.  Mississippi’s latest unemployment rate is even higher, at 10.3percent.  Some companies can’t find enough skilled employees. But as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, workers with specialized training are getting good jobs.

At the Mississippi Coast Convention Center in Biloxi, graduation for Ingalls Shipbuilding apprentices is much more than a cap and gown. They’ve earned $35,000 to $40,000 a year during training. And their salaries will rise a few thousand dollars with their full employee status.

One of the graduates is 34-year-old Wilfred Bolds. He has a background in construction and studied marine biology in college. He has three sons and decided he had to upgrade his skills to support his family.

"Right before here, I was actually a delivery driver. I went from driving trucks regionally to shipfitting," Bolds said.

Ingalls’ Director of Workforce Education and Training John Lotshaw said there are lots of opportunities in shipbuilding for highly skilled workers.

"We would certainly prefer to hire locally and invest in our community. But what we find in some cases, particularly in periods of high production, we cannot find the skilled labor that we need," Lotshaw said.

Community colleges are a vital link in developing training programs.  Mark Landry is workforce director for the Jackson County campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Landry says workforce programs make workers more competitive, especially for times like the planned expansion of Chevron and its anticipated hiring of 2,000 employees.

"Lots of those are going to be skilled craftsmen, millwrights, welders, pipefitters, electricians," Landry said.    

And while the jobs are out there, it’s the worker who has to take the initiative to go out and get the training.

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Wildfred Bolds completed a shipfitter apprentice program at Ingalls Shipbuilding and moved into a permanent job at the Pascagoula shipyard..


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