In accordance with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), passed in 2014, the State of Mississippi developed a statewide combined workforce plan, “Mississippi Works Smart Start Career Pathway”. Subsequently, each of the four local workforce areas in the state have developed a local workforce area plan. The plan for Southcentral MS Works Workforce Development Area, the seventeen county area encompassing Central MS PDD (CMPDD) and Southwest MS PDD (SWMPDD), was officially approved by the Governor on August 29, 2016.
The local plan supports the vision of the state plan, which is to provide every Mississippian with the opportunity to be work- or career-ready and to secure their dream job right here at home; create a workforce system where all partners are connected and resources line up to achieve common goals; develop a process that integrates workforce partner programs and improves efficiency in the delivery of services to individuals, with particular focus on those with barriers to employment; and strategically align workforce partner programs to target current and emerging high demand industry sectors.
The core workforce program partners are the MS Departments of Rehabilitation Services, Human Services, Employment Security, and the MS Community College Board. Mississippi’s Smart Start Plan is based on the “No Wrong Door” concept, meaning that any individual who seeks services from one of the core program partners will also receive information and referral to the services of the other core program partners. Implementation of the Smart Start Plan requires a very close working relationship among workforce partner agencies and staff.
The state is currently developing an electronic system that will facilitate referrals of individuals between the core agencies. The rollout of that system is expected by July, 2017; however, until that time, referrals of individuals between agencies will be accomplished via a manual process and the use of a series of diagnostic assessment questions developed by a team of partner agency representatives.
Training to demonstrate the manual process to front-line staff of the core partner programs was held over the course of the first two weeks in September. Six training sessions, presented by CMPDD Workforce staff members Mary Powers, Angela Griffin, and Cindy Goodin, provided training to almost 400 individuals. The sessions gave detailed instructions regarding the manual referral process to be followed and also provided attendees with the opportunity to meet staff of the other core program partners with whom they will be working to coordinate the provision of services to individuals.
By utilizing the resources and services of the workforce partner agencies, every Mississippian should have ample opportunity to access needed workforce skills training, support services and livable-wage employment.