The most important thing Mississippi companies need to succeed is a better-educated workforce, says a new survey released Wednesday.
More than 1,800 business owners responded to the Y’all Business survey sent out by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office, and 75 percent of them said it is moderately to significantly difficult to find an educated workforce.
“We need more jobs, higher wages and greater opportunities for all Mississippians, but the message businesses are sending us is clear,” Hosemann said. “We will fail to accomplish these goals if we do not have an educated workforce.”
A report this week from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows high-tech jobs at Stennis Space Center, Ingalls Shipbuilding and Chevron put weekly wages in Hancock County at $928 and Jackson County at $924 — closer to the national average of $1,020. Less skilled service and hospitality jobs in Harrison County pay an average of $718 a week, which is $200 a week less than in the neighboring counties.
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Only 20 percent of Mississippians get a four-year degree, while 45 percent of the employers who responded to the survey said they require employees to have a two-year degree or higher.
That means the state needs people who are technically trained and who in some cases will have income levels higher than those with a degree, he said.
Hosemann said he travels to schools throughout Mississippi, and the innovative project-based learning at the new Gulfport High School is one of the top in the state. He recently met a student in Gulfport who will graduate from high school and junior college the same day, will be the first in his family to have a degree and who plans to join the Army and become a nurse, Hosemann said.
“I think Gulfport is the incubator, the laboratory that will be the normal in the future,” he said. “We want our students to be able to dream and we want to give them opportunity to get there.”
Mississippi has made progress on its graduation rate, which was 73.7 percent in 2012 when Gov. Phil Bryant took office and stands at 82.3 percent today, he said.
The survey also asked business owners if they were offered any type of assistance when starting their business.
“Seventy percent of the LLCs didn’t get anything from anybody,” he said. They weren’t necessarily looking for state and local government incentives, which he said ranked 11th most important on the survey, as they were for community support, which was second most important after the educated workforce.
Hosemann said the survey of Mississippi businesses owners also showed:
▪ 47 percent said it takes three months to a year or more to find a qualified employees
▪ 45 percent said they would expand in Mississippi if they had an educated workforce
▪ 70 percent said new hires must be somewhat to very technically skilled
▪ 55 percent offer on-the-job training or tuition support