Working together for workforce development

Published 10:16 pm Sunday, October 31, 2021

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By Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson

Monday, October 25, was a historic day for the City of Natchez and Adams County! In a joint meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, the Adams County Board of Supervisors, and the Natchez Adams School Board, we all voted unanimously to immediately work together towards hiring a Director of Workforce Development.

Mayor Dan Gibson

We came to this decision in record time – it was a great thing to witness, everyone working together for a common goal. We are one of the very first cities/counties/school districts in the entire state to do this!

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The job situation in Natchez is something everyone seems to be talking about. In spite of the many challenges we have faced during this past year and a half, many new businesses have opened and there are more on the horizon. With all of this new economic growth, we now have a record surplus of new jobs and a challenge we have never faced: we have more jobs than we have people to fill them. In order to resolve this, we need a strategy. We must have someone dedicated to matching workers with the companies and entrepreneurs offering these jobs.

I have been making the point a lot lately that when we truly view something as a priority for our community, we make sure there is a person dedicated to seeing out its success. For example, we have a sheriff and a police chief to address public safety. We have directors of public works for the city and county. We have directors for emergency management, parks and recreation, etc. It is time for us to get serious about our needs in career and technical training. We need a Director of Workforce Development.

There are many excellent programs being offered by our local educational institutions. The Fallon Center at Natchez High School already has strong programs that include construction technology, work based learning, digital media technology, early childhood education, health science, collision repair, and teaching.

Copiah Lincoln Community College offers fantastic career and technical training such as diesel repair, industrial welding, HVAC repair, nursing, automotive repair, and healthcare data analysis. In addition, Alcorn State University houses both its School of Nursing and School of Business on the Natchez Campus.

While we are blessed to have excellent programs already in place, we need someone who can explore opportunities to add to our wealth of career technical programs as well as work with local industries to make sure current and future employees are receiving the training that they need locally.

I am a firm believer that a highly-skilled and well-trained workforce is the backbone of a healthy city. This goes beyond the economic health of our region. Of course, a robust and well-trained workforce is attractive when recruiting business and industry for Natchez and Adams County, but it also leads to better economic opportunity for our people. And better economic opportunity means less poverty, better health, and ultimately less crime.

I am excited that our local governing boards have come together to prioritize this very important need. Now it is time to roll up our sleeves and go to work to ensure the success of this endeavor! Natchez deserves more – Jobs.

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.