Skilled Workers Needed

When it comes to jobs in our area, some of the highest paying positions available are in the industrial sector.

From Georgia Pacific's Naheola Mill in Choctaw County, Alabama, to Hol-mac in Jasper County, Mississippi, there's a big demand for industrial workers. However, officials from both companies say the challenge is finding people who are qualified for entry level positions.

'There's kind of the thought in today's society that you really need a four year degree to get a job and that's just simply not true,' says Hol-Mac Public Relations Director, Kellum Kim. 'There's a tremendous shortage across the nation of skilled laborers and we're seeing that affect right here in Bay Springs, Mississippi.'

When it comes to training, officials from Hol-mac and the Naheola Mill agree that most job candidates need solid math, science and computer skills.

'We push so hard for people who want a skilled labor position to go to a vocational center, go to a two year college,' says Kim.

To meet this growing need, officials with the Naheola Mill say they are even reaching out to students in the 8th grade in an effort to build their skills in the needed areas.

Back in Mississippi, Meridian Community College offers 50 career-technical programs. School leaders say about 90% of the students in those programs complete them and get 'positively placed.'

'What that means is that they get a job; they continue their education, perhaps at a university; go into the military or something like that and that's a pretty good record,' says MCC President, Dr. Scott Elliott.

Meridian Community College is just one of many higher education institutions in East Mississippi and West Alabama that's turning its attention to meet the specific expanding needs of the changing workforce.

Last year 100 people were hired at the Naheola Mill in Choctaw County, Alabama. This year another 100 are expected to be hired. As for Hol-Mac, earlier this summer company officials announced plans to hire 90 people within three months. The pay for at least 80% of those jobs is expected to be anywhere from $38,000 to $50,000 a year.