The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides funds for a number of workforce –related employment and training programs and services aimed at enabling individuals to acquire the skills and support they need to connect with employment. The Southcentral MS Works Local Workforce Development Area’s programs, services and activities are planned and overseen by both a Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB) and a Board of Commissioners (BOC). The LWDB is composed of a majority of business and industry leaders, while the BOC is composed of one county supervisor from each of the workforce area’s seventeen counties. These two boards jointly develop policy governing WIOA programs, services and activities, while CMPDD’s Workforce Division staff handle the day-to-day duties of implementing the policies and working with various WIOA service providers to ensure that US Department of Labor performance mandates are met.
Hearing personal stories from individuals who have had their lives changed by the programs and services that WIOA funding provides brings it all into focus. The LWDB and the BOC held a joint meeting in December on the campus of Hinds Community College, one of the workforce area’s four partner community colleges. The highlight of the meeting was the opportunity to hear first-hand testimony from a Hinds student who is enrolled in career skills training paid for with WIOA funding. WIOA pays the young man’s tuition, fees, books, and other allowable costs through the award of an Individual Training Account (ITA). The student shared his story of completing high school with only an occupational certificate, not a high school diploma or its equivalent. His school counselor told him about the MI-BEST program at the community college, whereby he could obtain his high school equivalency and gain career tech skills simultaneously. He desperately wanted his high school equivalency degree and he wanted to attend college. He shared with the board members that he is now drawing close to graduation from Hinds. But this remarkable young man also works at Hunter Engineering while attending school, and while caring for his invalid mother at home.
Seeing the face of this young man and hearing a first-hand account of his struggles, his accomplishments, and new found self-confidence was very touching for the board members. The WIOA programs serve many individuals like this young man, whether it is through the tuition assistance provided by an ITA, on-the-Job training, or Internship assistance provided to an employer. Every day, Southcentral MS Works’ WIOA programs strive to make someone’s life better by giving them the skills they need to get a first job, a better job, or a great job.