MCEF_600x400By Caroline Miller of Pearson Education's Teaching & Learning Blog The following blog has been republished with permission from Pearson Learning Solutions and was originally published on Nov. 12, 2014: Pearson Education recently caught up with Mike Barkett, president of Mississippi Construction Education Foundation (MCEF) to get an update on new developments that have emerged from his ongoing effort to build a quality construction workforce in Mississippi. What changes or trends have you seen as a result of the efforts of MCEF? Mike: Overall awareness in the field of construction and manufacturing and the opportunities they present for young people today has increased dramatically. Particularly now that we are coming out of the recession and there are many more jobs available. Students and parents realize that construction and manufacturing can provide a rewarding and well-paying career and thus is a viable option. The fact that 21 percent of our high school graduates from last year entered directly into the workforce upon graduation is a testament to this. What sort of initiatives is MCEF involved in to help create awareness and interest among students and stakeholders around careers in construction? Mike: We do a lot to help inform parents, counselors and students throughout the state about the opportunities in construction and manufacturing. A few examples include:
  1. MCEF hosts the state SkillsUSA competition in construction and manufacturing. This is an event that attracts more than 300 students in eleven (11) disciplines, and it helps to view the “Best of the Best” in high school, community college and/or apprenticeship training. It also helps MCEF establish a strong image-building showcase for the construction industry in Mississippi and serves as a catalyst in recruitment of stronger candidates for employment.
  2. As part of the SkillsUSA competition we also host a workshop targeted towards guidance counselors, directors and superintendents. The goal of the workshop is to educate everyone about the construction opportunities and that career and technical education is a viable career path for young people.
  3. Another event we conduct is a statewide career expo for 8th grade students called Passport 2 Careers. Last year we had 600 students attend, and they were exposed to more than 30 hands-on career opportunities and in some cases were able to experience and/or see what was involved in each. This year we are hoping to have 1,200 students participate.
Now that your workforce readiness initiative is underway and has grown well, how will the work of MCEF continue in the future? MCEF2_400x275Mike: It’s time for us to take our initiatives to the next level. We would like to add additional staff so we can do a better job working with the community colleges throughout the state. Technology is really changing the way we teach and the way young people learn, so we would like to invest in this area and expand our reach to make training more available to all that are interested. There are also many new programs that we could start to help serve some of the high demand areas. For example, the need for welders has grown significantly as a result of work throughout the region. In addition, the concrete, asphalt and road building associations in the area have contacted us about specific training needs that they have. So, the opportunities to expand and continue to help close the skills gap and deliver a qualified workforce for the state of Mississippi is significant. Of course, all of this costs money. We’ve been very fortunate to have the support of the industry in obtaining annual grants from license fees collected by the Mississippi State Board of Contractors – our primary source of funding. With the industry’s full support and the support of the Board of Contractors, we are developing a plan to increase these fees which will allow MCEF to grow and expand in new and exciting areas. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with all the contractors agreeing to the fee increase. This recommendation is being prepared for consideration by the next session of the Mississippi Legislature. A full case study about MCEF’s inception and growth can be found here or access the podcast for the full interview about MCEF and Yates Construction. See more at:

Leave a comment


NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.