Georgia Workforce

Introduction

In the midst of the economic recession, finding employment for many has been difficult for many Americans, especially young adults (ages 16-24). Today, many businesses seek highly skilled candidates for their job positions. In order to keep up with these demands, many states have created school-to-work initiatives and programs that have incorporate academic curriculum with workforce training.
The State of Georgia has been a trailblazer in the incorporation of classroom learning and vocational training. Not only has the state provided workforce training, but also they have established ready-to-work programs, BRIDGE programs, and even inmate transition initiatives. Governor of the State of Georgia Sonny Perdue spearheaded the workforce reform movement by creating The Governor??™s Office of Workforce Development in August of 2006. Its mission is to improve the job training and marketability of Georgia??™s workforce and drive future economic growth for the state.
The framework of Georgia??™s workforce programs will be an inspiration for the State of Mississippi to develop a more effective workforce initiatives; especially targeting School-to-Work programs for young adults. Although the State of Mississippi has implemented school-to-work programs and initiatives, there is room for many improvements that can be instilled. Mississippi has a dire need to catch up with the higher-populated states regarding the digital age because much of the equipment that assists instructors with the workforce curriculum is computer and/or online based.

This assessment is intended to convince the State of Mississippi to create school-to-work as well as ready-to-work initiatives. The two states??™ programs will be compared and contrasted to show the differences and what needs to be improved. It will highlight the overall concept of the state of Georgia??™s STW initiatives. If allowed to establish an initiative for the State of Mississippi, it will be modeled after the State of Georgia??™s initiative, which is one of the most successful concepts in the United States.

Objective
* The objective of this assessment is to compare and contrast the workforce initiatives of the states of Mississippi and Georgia. After the assessment, propositions will be presented that will suggest how the state of Mississippi can improve and strengthen the core of their programs and initiatives.

Background
Many employers have found in recent years that young adults who apply for positions within their company are simply not qualified and lack basic work skills sufficient to survive in the work force. However, the recent changes in government resources and assistance, such as increased Federal stimulus money and the Workforce Investment Act, have provided career development and preparation opportunities for young adults and teenagers who are between the ages of 16 and 24. The Workforce Investment Act has added over $1 billion in order to help prepare students and young adults for the workforce, training them with proper education and occupational skills for countless available vocational skills.
Although a significant majority of teenagers transition from school to the workforce without breaking a sweat, many find the adjustment to be quite challenging. Moreover, a substantial number of teens are disconnected from school and employment altogether. From the rigors of choosing whether or not college is in your future, to exploring alternative options, several questions evade a cloud of uncertainty regarding that transition between school and work. According to a February 2008 report released by the America??™s Promise Initiative, roughly 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year? (Carleton, 2008).
As of 2010, Georgia as well as Mississippi has had an increase in unemployment in the past decade (Georgia +6.1, Mississippi +4.7). The two states also have a high dropout rate. These factors help create new school-to-work programs and initiatives.

School-to-Work Programs
School To Work is? not intended to be a program, but rather a strategic and philosophical. The initiatives are designed to integrate educators, businesses, and communities for the purpose of giving individuals the opportunity to gain the information and skills they need to be successful to move from one level and type of education to another, and from success in education to success in a career. The partnership functions to bring together the many voices that are interested in education and/or careers.
School-to-Work programs nationwide target to embrace the fundamentals of learning and working in one lesson plan. These actions allow learners to obtain new skills that could be transferred into the workplace environment. Many of these programs begin in high school, mainly in the eleventh grade. According to Gordon (2003), students learn most effective skills in the context in which they will use those skills. STW programs benefit the community, businesses, teachers, and most of all, the participants.

Mississippi STW Programs
The State of Mississippi has established Mississippi??™s School-to-Careers (STC) initiative. The initiative builds upon existing efforts to better education and workforce development. The State Workforce Development Council, the 15 District Workforce Development Councils located in Community College districts within the state. The Tech Prep initiative laid the groundwork for the STC system.?  According to the Mississippi Department of Education??™s official website, over a four-year period, beginning in January 1999, approximately $19.2 million will be invested throughout the state of Mississippi to further support improving education and workforce development. In supporting a seamless system to serve all students in the transition from school to careers, the Mississippi STC Initiative??™s focus will be on improving K-12 education and its connection with community college education systems, universities, business, and labor to ensure that each student is provided with appropriate educational opportunities to prepare for constructive participation in society, immediate employment, and/or further education. Mississippi??™s STC strategy forges connections among education, workforce development, and economic development systems.?  Mississippi??™s STC unites business and industry, organized labor, communities, parents, schools, and higher education in an unprecedented partnership to ensure that Mississippi??™s citizens become continuous learners.

Georgia STW Programs
The state of Georgia??™s flagship school-to-work program is The Middle Georgia BRIDGE (Building Relationships for Initiatives to Develop Georgia Education and Employment) partnership has developed plans to assure that all students, out-of-school youth and adults in the Middle Georgia Technical College service area make a smooth transition from education to high-wage, high-skill careers. CHOICES- an interactive seminar designed to help 8th graders realize they can take charge of their lives. Trained business/community volunteers show students that every decision has a consequence – both short and long term.
* BRIDGES.com – a career and planning system for middle and high school students, parents and educators that supports career awareness, career planning, and career transition activities via the Internet.
* Groundhog Job Shadow Day – an education-based activity that allows students to take part in the world of work by “shadowing” a business of their choice in their area of interest.
Similarities of the states??™ programs
Georgia and Mississippi??™s school-to-work programs are similar because they both have the concepts of improving workforce development/ The Mississippi Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Education have the goals of allowing students to be able to transition from the high school classroom into the workplace environment.

Figure 1 illustrates the goals of the two states involving School-to-Work Programs.

Differences in the states??™ programs
Georgia and Mississippi have different approaches pertaining to School-to-Work programs. Georgia??™s programs are more focused on heavily combining academia and workforce. They provide programs that enrich and enhance the participants ability to work and eventually, attend a post-secondary education. Georgia??™s School-to-Work initiatives prepare their students for the workforce as early as the eighth grade. This early learning technique is beneficial to the student as well as his/her future employers because they will be readily prepared for the workplace environment requiring little to no training.
Mississippi??™s programs are primarily focused on the vocational aspect of the school-to-work programs. The state heavily encourages vocational training into trade skills such as welding, carpentry, etc.

Ready-to-Work Programs
Ready-to-Work programs are a part of workforce education and economic development.? It allows the student/jobseeker has the fundamental job skills necessary to succeed in today??™s rapidly changing and competitive economy. Ready to Work programs are usually sponsored and funded by the State.
The program is administered by the State Department of Education in conjunction of the State??™s Workforce Department. The program is being implemented by regional workforce boards, community colleges, high schools, and other workforce development and education partners statewide.
Georgia??™s RTW programs
Georgia Work Ready was launched in August 2006 by Governor Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to improve the job training and marketability of Georgias workforce and drive future economic growth for the state. It is the only initiative of its kind to be conducted through a partnership between a state government and state chamber of commerce, ensuring that companies can more reliably match the right people with the right jobs.
Work Ready is based on a skills assessment and certification for job seekers and a job profiling system for businesses. By identifying both the needs of business and the available skills of Georgias workforce, the state can more effectively generate the right talent for the right jobs.
Also, the Georgia Department of Corrections has initialized a higher-education program for its inmates named the Academic Education Initiative. The program allows inmates to receive a GED, and earn credits for coursework. The initiative also provides the following;
* Voluntary participation for offenders who do not have a high school diploma or GED
* Enrollment of 8,000 – 8,300 on a typical instruction day
* Academic Education, comprised of one to three courses of study, is available in all State Prisons, Boot Camps, and Probation Detention Centers as well as in many Transitional Centers and Diversion Centers. (91 GDC Sites)
* General education and special education courses of study
* Literacy (L/RR)
* Adult Basic Education (ABE)
* General Education Diploma Preparation (GED Prep)
* ESL and Braille available at select facilities
* 2,500-3,000 GED examinations annually; 74% passing rate
* Classroom-based instruction delivered by part-time and full-time GDC staff, supplemented by instructors from local area Technical Colleges
* Post-secondary academic study available providing that the recipient has approval and pays all post-secondary costs
The state of Georgia also implemented a technology initiative that combined both school-to-work and ready-to-work programs. The Georgia Virtual Technical College ??“ Learning Object Repository (GVTC-LOR) is an initiative of The Georgia Virtual Technical College. GVTC itself is an initiative of the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education.
The Georgia Virtual Technical College went online in the fall of 1998 and brings together the resources of 34 accredited technical colleges to expand program offerings giving students more technical educational options than ever before. Students get the same high quality instruction and course content that these technical colleges provide to traditional students, minus the barriers of time and place that prevent so many from pursuing educational opportunities. GVTC has opened a world of opportunities and rewards for students seeking an alternative to the traditional classroom experience. The GVTC ??“ LOR is one of many innovations GVTC continues to provide for students and educators.
Mississippi??™s RTW programs
Mississippi has the Workforce Investment Network (WIN) as the main ready-to-work program in the state. The Workforce Investment Network (WIN) in Mississippi is an innovative strategy designed to provide convenient, one-stop employment and training services to employers and job seekers. Combining federal, state and community workforce programs and services into physical locations and electronic sites, WIN In Mississippi creates a system that is both convenient and user-friendly.
Similarities in states??™ programs
Both Georgia and Mississippi are Internet friendly and provide services for the jobseeker to review job postings,
Differences in states??™ programs
Mississippi only has WIN Job Center, although it is online. Most of their training occurs on the campus compared to Georgia??™s Virtual Technical College. The state of Georgia provides more technological opportunities for the learner to achieve skills and new vocations.
What Mississippi Can Learn from This
Mississippi can learn how to have a successful School-to-Work initiative. Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) can propose that Mississippi State Board for Community & Junior Colleges (SBCJC) is conducted through a partnership between a state government and state chamber of commerce, just as Georgia did with the Work Ready Initiative. This action would improve the workforce turnout tremendously because the learner??™s skills would be evaluated to the right employer, thus resulting in placement in the most compatible career.
Aside from Adult Basic Education, the Mississippi Department of Corrections only offers vocational skills in their programs such as computer repair, welding, carpentry, etc. One of the components that make a program work is the completion of a program where a educational certification or diploma is received. The Georgia prison system allows their inmates to receive a GED and also can be eligible for post-secondary education. The Mississippi prison system should enhance their program by making higher education options available for their inmates. This would be beneficial to those who would be released in the hopes of looking for a job.
Technology is the leading factor in education today. With the majority of the world owning a computer with Internet access, countless services (especially education) are readily available on the Web. The State of Mississippi??™s Education Department should institute a program where courses that offer vocational certificate online. This would bring more of a turnover in all parts of the state because this program would be accessible to those who are in rural areas that do not have nearby vocational centers.

References
Gordon, H. R. D. (2003). The History and Growth of Vocational Education in America.
Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.

Kash, Kathleen Mary (2007) “School-to-work Programs Effectiveness,”? Online Journal for Workforce Education and Development: Vol. 3: Iss. 4, Article 3.? 
School-to-Work Programs. Carleton University. 2008 http://www.carleton.edu/departments/educ/Vote/pages/School-to-Work.html