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Our View: A 'golden' opportunity




Today, a consultant hired by the Golden Triangle Development LINK to assess the future of economic development in our area revealed his findings in a public meeting at the Mayhew campus of East Mississippi Community College, a day after sharing that information with public officials. 


During his presentations, POLICOM Corp. President William Fruth asserted that The Golden Triangle can become one of the strongest small-area industrial regions in the U.S. because the infrastructure, for the most part, is in place to make that a reality. 


The LINK has skillfully delivered industries such as Severstal, Paccar and Airbus, bringing badly needed jobs and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. Looming just on the horizon is the arrival of phase one of Yokohama Tire Company, which will open in 2015 and provide 500 jobs. Three more phases, each of which would add 500 additional jobs, are planned. 


The jobs have been provided; we need a prepared workforce to fill them. 


There is no shortage of people, but there is a shortage of those who are ready to work. 


Fruth estimated there are 28,000 unemployed people of working age in the Golden Triangle who lack the skills and training required to fill the hundreds of jobs that will soon be coming to our area.  


To remedy that, EMCC-Mayhew has worked with Yokohama to develop a training program that will equip those people with the skills required to land those jobs. While a job is not guaranteed upon completing EMCC's training program, in nine to 10 weeks, an individual can be prepared to walk in the door of Yokohama, ready to work. 


This represents an opportunity that should be preached from the pulpits, shouted from the street corners, yelled from the rooftops. 


Yet, the response has not been what should be expected. 


To date, approximately 535 people have taken EMCC's WorkKeys assessment, which evaluates a person's readiness to work in today's manufacturing industry. Roughly 150 people have enrolled in EMCC's basic manufacturing skills training classes, which give individuals skills basic manufacturing skills which could be used at Paccar, Severstal or any other area manufacturer. EMCC also provides an advance manufacturing skills training program that will equip students for even better-paying jobs in the industry. 


The WorkKeys test costs $50. The manufacturing skills classes are $120. Although there is no financial aid available for these classes, there may be some need-based funding available through WIN Job Center in Columbus (phone: [662] 328-6876) or Prairie Opportunity in Starkville (phone: [662] 323-3397).  


Ideally, officials at EMCC and Yokohama would like to see about 3,000 people participating in these programs, which would provide a suitable pool of candidates as the hiring process begins. 


These are good-paying jobs, mind you, and the opportunity presented to all the unskilled unemployed of our community is something that can not only change the personal trajectory of those who will take the small steps required to become eligible for work, but can make the Golden Triangle a magnet for industrial and manufacturing growth. 


Yokohama's arrival need not signal the end of industrial growth and all of the good things that come with it.  


Industries will continue to look for the right place to build and there are no shortages of unemployed people in any area of the country. 


What will ultimately make the difference for our area, then, is not the sheer number of job-seekers, but the number of those job-seekers who have the skills and training necessary to fill the jobs that come our way. 


During Monday's meeting with elected officials, there was some concern that many of the unemployed have become dependent on government subsistence programs. In some cases, a person can receive more money by staying unemployed than working at a low-paying job.  


Here, then, is another opportunity, one that will break the cycle of dependency by means of a good-paying job. Work can be empowering, a source of pride. They represent a real chance to escape poverty and dependence and a chance to win for themselves the dignity that comes through self-reliance.  


These opportunities that should not be allowed to pass.  


Everything is in place. 


All that is needed are people who are willing to take the few small steps necessary to change their lives. 


This is a message we all need to spread. 


For information on the training, go to [email protected] or call (662) 243-2686.



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