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Tannehill attends Skills Foundation of Mississippi conference

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill spent a few days this past week at the Mississippi Municipal League Conference in Biloxi.

Tannehill joined other mayors from towns across the state, including Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs, Pascagoula Mayor Dane Maxwell, Holly Springs Mayor Kelvin Buck and Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox.

The main event of the conference, presented by the Skills Foundation of Mississippi, was the announcement of the More Skills, Better Communities initiative. According to a statement from the Skills Foundation of Mississippi, the initiative takes a community level approach to encourage more citizens to pursue high-demand, higher-paying skill-based opportunities in the workforce.

Amy Tate, government affairs director for the Tennessee Valley Authority and chairperson of the Skills Foundation of Mississippi, said the group’s goal is to emphasize the “drastic need” for more skilled workers.

“In Mississippi, about seven out of 10 jobs available are jobs that require skills training,” Tate said in a recent news release. “The demand is roughly 6 million jobs across the country and about 40,000 jobs in Mississippi. There are a range of specific training programs, mostly at community colleges across the state, where we need to increase throughput.”

During the conference, the coalition of mayors shared a local perspective of the importance of these careers. For example, Tannehill presented the success of FNC, Olin Winchester and more as evidence that Oxford’s economy extends beyond university life.

According to U.S. census data, approximately 89 percent of all residents in the Oxford area have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent. Almost 58 percent of the working-age population is classified as working in the civilian labor force. 53 percent of females fall into that category, as well. Creating jobs for these people, Tannehill said, is paramount to the city’s success.

“Many folks think of Ole Miss, tourism a service jobs when they think of the Oxford economy, but the truth of the matter is that the backbone of the town is rooted in the folks at places like FNC, who are creating cutting edge technology to help people all over the world get mortgages on their homes, and Olin Winchester, where skillful technicians are making [ammunition for] some of the best guns in the world,” Tannehill said in a recent news release. “Without these great companies employing skilled workers, the rest of Oxford’s local economy would not be as strong as it is.”

In Oxford and Lafayette County, there are several options for those looking to learn a trade. The Oxford-Lafayette School of Applied Technology, for example, teaches high school students skills from coding to cabinet making, and is expected to add more programs in Fall 2018. Northwest Mississippi Community College also offers trade programs for those seeking advanced certifications.