Community Colleges form Alliance to Enhance South Mississippi Workforce

Formally known as the South Mississippi Alliance for Workforce Solutions (SMAWS), a newly formed five-member consortium of south Mississippi colleges is aligning existing training programs for efficiency and creating new training programs to support south Mississippi industries and workers.  The five community colleges are Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Jones County Junior College, Pearl River Community College, Southwest Mississippi Community College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.  Combined, these colleges encompass 29 counties in south Mississippi and serve over 47,800 individuals in workforce training each year.

SMAWS was signed into existence in December 2013 by the five college presidents, and the Mississippi Community College Board is providing initial alliance support.  The alliance, which is governed by a five-member board composed of the workforce development leaders at each college, has established a mission of investigating, developing and delivering education and training for citizens and industries in the five community college service districts through demand-driven, innovative, traditional and non-traditional formats to advance the south Mississippi workforce.

Initial projects of the alliance include developing a comprehensive website of training offerings for industry and individuals seeking to improve worker skillsets.   Additionally, recognizing similar needs throughout  the service area in both healthcare and manufacturing, the alliance is seeking to develop credentialing packages in these sectors.  The credential packages are designed to contain multiple, nationally recognized credentials in each sector, which will benefit employers, employees, and potential employees in these sectors.

The alliance is planning a one-day workforce development conference for south Mississippi in the early summer, the first conference of its kind, with a focus on workforce in the southern counties.  The current chair of the alliance, Dr. Jason Pugh, vice president of Instruction at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, said, “I am excited about the possibilities that the alliance has to offer the southern part of our state.  All of the colleges are dedicated to the same goal of workforce development and we are a team with a sound agenda.  We hope to further unfold that agenda and engage others in our passion for training with our workforce conference this summer.”

Kathy McAdams is an award-winning journalist who has worked at weekly newspapers in Mississippi and the Press-Register in Mobile, Ala. A native of Gulfport, McAdams attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, William Carey University, the University of South Alabama and The University of Southern Mississippi. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and journalism and a master's degree in education and English. She has worked at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College since 2005.