Looking for a job? Looking for a worker?
In Mississippi, there’s an app for that, thanks in part to an Italian transplant who describes himself as a “Mississippian by marriage.”
Domenic “Mimmo” Parisi, director of The National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center (nSPARC) at Mississippi State, showed off the MS Works app at the Columbus Rotary Club meeting Tuesday.
The app provides a link between job seekers and employers, using nSPARC’s intuitive data base that provides detailed information not only on basic jobs, but skills, education and experience. Job information can also be found on the MS Works website at mississippiworks.org.
Mississippi Works, the jobs program implemented by Gov. Phil Bryant two years ago, is nSPARC’s showcase development, a research database system that is 15 years in the making and Parisi’s baby since arriving at MSU 15 years ago.
“I came from a family in Italy that was very focused on education,” Parisi told Rotarians. “It was something my father placed great importance on. He was a doctor and I was going to be a doctor, too. But when I came to the United States, I realized there were plenty of doctors. It was then I decided I wanted to be a social scientist. My father always said, ‘Don’t say you want to make a difference in people’s lives. If you want to make a difference, have a plan, become someone and then you can make a difference.”
For Parisi, that meant collecting, analyzing and refining data in a way that it could be used in a way that can have a direct impact on people’s lives.
A quick glance at nSPARC’s work on the MS Works app is a testament to the practical application of data that might otherwise be inaccessible.
Job seekers get real listings, but it goes far beyond that. By building a profile that includes education, skills and experience, the job seeker can quickly determine, on a percentage basis, how well he or she meets the qualifications an employer is seeking. An applicant might be considered a 25 percent match for one job, but an 85 percent match for another. The program may also alert job seekers to fields that they may never have considered, again based on how well the person’s qualifications align with the employers needs.
Parisi said the greatest current need for workers in Mississippi are for mid-level skills, defined as workers who have more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Over the next decade, there will be more workers than available jobs at the low-skill and high-skill levels, Parisi said, while the demand for mid-skill workers far exceeds those who have who have that combination of education and training.
His work with Mississippi Works helps guide those potential mid-skill workers to the training necessary for those jobs.
Parisi said the program is also designed to combat the “brain drain” that has long plagued the state.
“Think about the millions of dollars we spend to educate these people at our universities, only to watch them leave for jobs in other states,” Parisi said. “But I believe you can find that dream job right here in Mississippi and that’s an important part of our mission, too.”
Toward that end, the program includes a grad jobs listing that sends alerts to expatriate Mississippians for new jobs created in the state in their fields.
Finally, Parisi said that the work of nSPARC is a key part of the state’s economic development strategy.
“What’s the best asset for promoting economic development? Knowledge,” Parisi said. “Recruiting industries is incredibly competitive. I guess the best example of that would be Yokohama.”
Parisi said nSPARC’s work proved to be an invaluable resource as Mississippi wooed Yokohama officials.
“When they asked questions, we were able to tap into our research and provide real data in real time,” Parisi said. “And it was projections based on a small sample. We ere able to provide specific, detailed answers to all their questions. There is no doubt it played an important role in Yokohama’s decision.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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