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Candidates: Mississippi should focus on vocational education

Candidates for Mississippi governor are saying the state should strengthen vocational education programs to boost the economy.

Posted: Jul 16, 2019 12:32 AM
Updated: Jul 16, 2019 9:57 AM

CLINTON, Miss. (AP) — Candidates for Mississippi governor are saying the state should strengthen vocational education programs to boost the economy.

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he's proposing the state spend $100 million to try to improve job skills. Reeves said the single largest expense would be $75 million to community colleges for workforce training.

"I believe in Mississippi; we need to work to promote a culture of work and to enable Mississippi's workforce to compete with anyone anywhere in the country and, in fact, anyone anywhere in the world," Reeves said during a news conference in the Jackson suburb of Clinton, at a factory that makes generators.

Speaking later Monday to a Republican women's group in Jackson, former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster both said the state needs to ensure some students are prepared to work after high school graduation.

A Democrat running for governor, Attorney General Jim Hood, also has said people can earn good money with vocational skills.

At the Mississippi Press Association convention in Biloxi last month, Hood said more high schools should offer classes in welding or auto mechanics, as they did when he was a teenager. Hood lives in the northeastern Mississippi town of Houston, where he grew up. He said five counties in that area let students go to community college tuition-free if they maintain a B average.

"It's only $1,450 a semester ... but it's huge for those kids who want to go to a school and learn a trade skill," Hood said.

Foster and Waller spoke Monday at the state GOP headquarters. Reeves was also invited to the candidates' forum but sent a former state Republican chairman in his place.

Waller said more schools should form partnerships with industries to train students in skills such as welding. Some on the Gulf Coast have such a partnership with Ingalls Shipbuilding, one of the state's largest private employers.

"We've got to stop the brain drain, the population drain out of the state," Waller said.

In a brief interview after the event, Waller said students who are interested in learning skills such as welding should get to do that starting in about eighth grade.

"We need that we need to develop more of this alternative career vocational track," Waller said. "I think a bored student is a dropout or a bad student."

Foster told the Republican women that schools need more job-training classes.

"It really needs to start in around the seventh or eighth grade, where we expose our children to vocational skill training, where they can learn carpentry, mechanics, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, computer programing," Foster said. "Because everybody's just not meant to go to college. And this one-track path that we put everybody on — it really started almost two generations ago — has really been a failure, in my opinion."

Reeves and Hood have raised the most money in the race to succeed Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who could not seek a third term.

Party primaries are Aug. 6 and runoff, if needed, are Aug. 27. The general election is Nov. 5.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds269748
DeSoto181818
Madison138236
Jones117349
Harrison104014
Rankin103515
Neshoba102274
Lauderdale94281
Forrest93943
Scott79215
Jackson72717
Washington64310
Copiah63115
Leake61320
Lee58621
Holmes57341
Oktibbeha56828
Wayne55416
Warren55320
Yazoo5436
Grenada5357
Lowndes52613
Leflore52256
Lincoln50935
Lamar5027
Pike47020
Sunflower4528
Lafayette4374
Monroe43635
Covington4195
Panola3996
Bolivar38018
Attala37524
Simpson3733
Newton35710
Adams34019
Pontotoc3266
Tate32313
Marion31312
Claiborne29310
Chickasaw29219
Winston28711
Pearl River27632
Noxubee2758
Marshall2693
Jasper2676
Clay25511
Union23811
Smith23412
Walthall2267
Coahoma2156
Clarke21425
Lawrence1992
Yalobusha1938
Kemper18014
Carroll17311
Tallahatchie1664
Humphreys15910
Montgomery1493
Calhoun1475
Tippah14411
Itawamba1418
Hancock13813
Webster12811
Tunica1193
Jefferson1173
Jefferson Davis1164
Prentiss1123
Greene10810
Amite1063
George1023
Wilkinson959
Tishomingo921
Quitman891
Alcorn852
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin492
Benton420
Sharkey420
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
Lawrence1170
Cherokee1127
Geneva920
Lamar811
Fayette781
Clay742
Coosa621
Cleburne411
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