Community College Program Named Finalist for National Award

>
> The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has selected the Mississippi community college’s MIBEST (Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training) initiative as one of four finalists from across the nation for its 2017 College/Corporate Partnership Award of Excellence. The AACC will announce the Award of Excellence winners at its 97th Annual Meeting in New Orleans on April 24, 2017.
>
> Designed and implemented by all 15 community colleges in the state, the MIBEST initiative combines high school equivalency preparation, for-credit skills training, and industry-based credentials with intensive support in a simultaneous program that accelerates credential attainment and employment in good-paying careers. The initiative has already enrolled more than 1,200 students in approximately 60 career pathway programs ranging from industrial maintenance to business office technology. After just two semesters, 207 students have earned their high school equivalency and more than 1,000 industry relevant credentials have been earned. The program is currently funded through a three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
>
> According to the Mississippi Works website (www.mississippiworks.org/), there are approximately 40,000 available jobs in the state—many that go unfilled because of the widening skills gap among working-age Mississippians. With a 57% workforce participation rate – the second lowest in the country—and one in five working-age (25-65 years old) adults in our state being a high school dropout., companies are struggling to find employees who are well-trained and ready to work. MIBEST helps move these underprepared individuals from the sidelines to the frontlines of business success.
>
> “MIBEST helps transform high school drop-outs into skilled and productive workers who can better care for their families and contribute to our state’s economy,” said Mr. Kenneth Wheatley, MIBEST Program Director for the Mississippi Community College Board.
>
> The success of MIBEST can be attributed to the many partnerships that are currently in place across the state. “MIBEST works because of the strong collaboration among the 15 community and junior colleges, our business partners, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation,” said Dr. Andrea Mayfield, Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College Board. “Without the assets that each of these partners bring to the table, we would not have the strong results that we are achieving in MIBEST.”
>
> One example of the many business partners that has come about as a result of MIBEST is Rush Health Systems and Meridian Community College. Carol Blackwell, Director of Employment Services at Rush Health Systems, added: “We value our partnership with Meridian Community College. Through MIBEST, the college is delivering a pool of well-trained, certified potential employees who have the technical skills necessary in today’s ever-changing industry environment.”
>
> Collaboration with other state entities, such as the Governor’s office and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, and the engagement of state leaders is essential to the success of MIBEST. “By targeting high school dropouts along with those who are unemployed and underemployed, MIBEST is helping to better our state,” said Governor Phil Bryant. “The program provides an opportunity for these individuals to earn workforce and community college credentials and a career pathway to a middle-skill occupation where there is a labor demand. MIBEST sets program participants on the path to good wages and career advancement.”
>
> Community colleges are benefitting from these partnerships as well. “Our community colleges have long served students who may be underprepared for postsecondary education,” said Dr. Jesse Smith, President of Jones County Junior College and Chair of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC). “Working with our business partners, MIBEST is helping to bring in students who might think they are unable to be admitted to college and provide those individuals with the appropriate support network that will lead to success in credit-level, technical programs that are essential for successful careers.”
>
> At the heart of the MIBEST initiative is a team of dedicated staff at each community college who help students find their way through the maze of college admissions, program selection, and the multiple life challenges that can threaten academic and career advancement. “Through strong partnerships with internal college departments and external organizations, Student Navigators connect MIBEST participants with the resources they need to prosper in their education and careers and in life,” notes Ms. Nikitna Barnes, MIBEST Project Coordinator at the Mississippi Community College Board.
>
> Because of the commitment and vision of many, students are seeing their lives improved because of the initiative. When talking about MIBEST faculty, Alonso Hernandez, MIBEST student at Jones County Junior College added: “Each faculty member really wants you to succeed. They don’t give you the option to fail. It’s up to you to show up and do your best, but they really encourage you, while setting the bar high. It makes you want to increase your skills and just to be better in life.”
>