PEARL ― As the construction industry boom continues across Mississippi and the nation, there’s no better time to be a trade professional than now. That’s the message the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation is sharing statewide during National Careers in Construction Month in October.

“Professional trades are among the highest paying and fastest growing jobs in the U.S., yet companies are struggling to fill these positions because of a shortage of qualified employees,” said MCEF President Mike Barkett. “We want to position Mississippians for success by raising awareness about opportunities in construction and the role that modern career and technical education programs play in college and career readiness.”

Spearheaded by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and declared by Gov. Phil Bryant as an official, month-long observance in Mississippi, the annual initiative includes a broad range of partners aggressively working to combat shortages of craft professionals across the country.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction occupations are projected to grow 11 percent through 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also reports that nearly 200,000 construction jobs in the U.S. were unfilled at the start of 2018 — a trend that’s being felt in Mississippi, Barkett noted.

“By 2019, Mississippi will need more than 80,000 craft professionals to meet the needs of the state’s growing construction industry,” Barkett said. “MCEF is working to ensure that students throughout Mississippi have access to high-quality training programs that will prepare them to pursue career opportunities in construction and other growing industries.”

National Careers in Construction Month in Mississippi coincides with MCEF’s Trade Up! awareness campaign to promote the long-term advantages of modern CTE programs. Trade Up! highlights the fact that CTE is becoming the preferred route to career and college success for a growing number of Mississippi students.

“Modern CTE programs provide a solid foundation for the future,” Barkett said. “Students can complete industry-based certification programs and go to work after they graduate or use their specialized training to get a head start on college degrees. In the meantime, they’re exposed to cutting-edge technologies that are highly valued in the job market.”

Technology drives today’s top careers, from engineering and health care to computer science and construction. Modern CTE programs allow students to gain hands-on experience with the latest technologies in real work environments. By the time they graduate from high school, they have impressive résumés on which to build.

Students’ credentials also are portable. CTE programs in Mississippi follow standards set by NCCER, meaning students’ training and credentials are recognized by construction and maintenance industries worldwide.

MCEF continues working with the Mississippi Department of Education and a statewide coalition of business and industry partners to ensure that CTE centers maintain NCCER certifications and provide high-quality training and education programs that give students a foundation for lifelong success.

“It’s a fact that CTE students have higher graduation rates than non-CTE students,” Barkett said. “They’re motivated by clear goals and being able to make significant progress on a career or college track during high school. It’s an approach that’s gaining momentum as more and more Mississippians discover the long-range value of CTE.”

Chambers, schools, civic clubs, churches and other groups interested in hosting a Trade Up! conversation are encouraged to contact Barkett at mike@mcef.net.

The mission of the non-profit MCEF is to promote careers, recruit capable individuals and train a quality workforce for the construction and manufacturing industries in the state of Mississippi. MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades.

“Careers in Construction Month” is an initiative of NCCER and Build Your Future ― see http://byf.org for details.