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AccelerateMS Recognizes Workforce Champions


JACKSON, MS — Today, AccelerateMS recognized three individuals and groups for their outstanding contributions to Mississippi’s workforce efforts.

Awardees were the FORGE Your Path Career Expo, Mississippi State University Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension’s Industry 4.0 Skills Accelerator (i4SA) Program, and the Workforce Director at South Delta Planning and Development District, Mitzi Woods. 

The awards were given at the 2023 Mississippi Horizons Innovation and Strategy Symposium, which attracted over 500 individuals from around the State. Representatives from State government, K-12 and higher education, business and industry, and elected officials participated in panel discussions, keynote sessions, and educational forums on topics related to aligning Mississippi’s policies and practices to strengthen the State’s current and future workforce.

“This year’s theme for the Mississippi Horizons event is Human Momentum and we as a state should continually identify shining examples of people and initiatives that are giving our people occupational and personal momentum,” said Ryan Miller, AccelerateMS Executive Director. “It is my hope that the recognition given today in these three awards will inspire others to follow in their lead to make a larger impact in Mississippi communities.”

The exclusive, limited-edition awards were created and crafted by Jamie Wilkerson and Alana Jolly, machinist and welding instructors from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Made of steel, the awards are shaped like a lighthouse, representing the Gulf Coast and a blossom from the Magnolia, Mississippi’s state flower.

The Workforce Program of the Year was given to the FORGE Your Path Career Expo. FORGE (Family Organizations Recruiting Great Employees) is a group of community-minded small businesses that work alongside educators to recruit talented, skilled employees. They help students FORGE their own path by utilizing the abundant workforce training options in the region. 

In partnership with the Communiversity at East Mississippi Community College and the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, the Forge Your Path Career Expo exposes students to a variety of construction-themed hands-on activities designed to generate interest in the various capacities of the construction industry. Last year, over 2,000 students from 18 different schools attended. 

The Instant Impact Award was given to the Mississippi State University Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension Industry 4.0 Skills Accelerator (i4SA) Program. The program offers training and exposure to prepare Mississippians to work in high-tech environments and with automated systems through an experiential learning factory, workshops in the K-12 community to equip individuals with the knowledge needed to demonstrate the available pathways to the next generation of workers for advanced manufacturing jobs, and a K-12 outreach campaign to engage historically under-represented student populations provide exposure on i4.0 related topics and career opportunities.

The Workforce Champion of the Year was given to Mitzi Woods, Workforce Director at South Delta Planning and Development District. 

Woods joined the District as a program specialist in 2003, before taking on her current role a year later. Before that, she worked for Mid-State Opportunity, a community action agency based in Charleston, Mississippi, as a program planner and project director for a variety of community-based programs. 

She attended Delta State University and is a member of the National Association of Workforce Boards, and the Southeastern Employment Training Association..

AccelerateMS serves the people and businesses of Mississippi by developing and deploying workforce strategies to connect individuals with transformative, high-paying careers. By leveraging resources and partnering with organizations that hold complementary missions, AccelerateMS effectuates positive change, creating sustained individual, community and, statewide economic prosperity.