Hancock County becomes an ACT Work Ready Community

February 15, 2019

Hancock County, MS - Two years of hard work paid off this month when Hancock County was certified a Work Ready Community. The recognition came from ACT, the same company that administers the most widely known college admissions test.

Hancock County is the first coastal Mississippi county to earn the ACT certification, which indicates the county’s workforce has the skills employers are looking for.

The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission (HCPHC) has worked closely since 2017 with the Hancock County Board of Supervisors, Hancock Chamber of Commerce, Pearl River Community College, Hancock County School District, the Bay-Waveland School District, and county employers and community leaders to develop a workforce committee to address workforce issues within the county. The committee’s goal was to help businesses and industries identify what skills they require of employees, and to show workers the skills they need and how to get them. Educators received help developing training programs to meet those needs.

HCPHC Chief Executive Officer Bill Cork said the Commission realized a piece was missing from the county’s employment picture: “We needed qualified workers to attract quality employers, and to help our existing businesses deal with attractions and expansions. The ACT Work Ready Communities program gave us the framework we sought to bring local resources and community leaders together to find that gap.”

HCPHC hosted a three-part series of meetings on workforce development in March and April 2018 featuring businesses such as Coast Electric Power Association, SABIC and DAK Americas. These major employers are using the ACT WorkKeys to identify the most-qualified workers. WorkKeys also helps find the best potential employees and students.

The resulting Work Ready Community designation is a new tool that economic developers can use to showcase the quality of Hancock County’s workforce.

“I’m very proud of the collaborative effort of so many stakeholders,” said Hancock County Board President Blaine LaFontaine. “Whenever an undertaking can benefit the county’s businesses and industries as well as its residents, that’s a 100% win-win endeavor.”

Hancock County is now among 20 counties across the state that have earned the certification.

Workforce training has been a centerpiece of Gov. Phil Bryant’s jobs program throughout his two terms in office. Officials have found only about 20 percent of Mississippi’s jobs require a college degree. Programs such as the ACT Work Ready Community help ensure Mississippi has the skilled workers for the other 80 percent.

“This distinction is a direct result of the County’s progressive leadership,” said Pearl River Community College President Dr. Adam Breerwood. “This recognition sends a message to current and future industry partners that Hancock County is dedicated to economic development. Pearl River Community College is honored to be a part of the community and the forward-thinking environment that has been created.”

The governor has pushed for more workforce-training money and programs for several years, signing the workforce training bill in 2016 and holding a summit in January of business and workforce development leaders from across the U.S. in Jackson.

In honor and recognition of the certification, Pearl River Community College – Hancock Campus, will have a celebratory press conference Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 2:00 pm.  Refreshments will be served, and the public is invited to attend. Please contact Janel Carothers at jcarothers@hcphc.ms for more information!

#Awards, #Community, #Workforce