PEARL ― If you’d like to see Mississippi’s future workforce in action, check out the MCEF SkillsUSA State Championship March 8-9 at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson.

Hundreds of career and technical education students will be going head-to-head in Mississippi’s largest youth craft competition ever. Teams will work against the clock and each other to prove their expertise in carpentry, cabinet making, electrical, HVAC, masonry, plumbing, sheet metal, welding and teamwork skills.

“Students who compete in the state championship represent the future of Mississippi’s workforce,” said Mike Barkett, president of the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation. “They’re the aspiring professionals who will help fill the 80,000 craft positions needed in our state to power our economy and keep Mississippi moving forward.”

The championship is held in conjunction with the Passport to Careers (P2C) Expo for eighth graders and the CTE Counselors Workshop. Events are part of MCEF’s Building Futures initiative aimed at ensuring the state’s need for more craft professionals is met by qualified Mississippians who have graduated from one of the state’s accredited career and technical education programs.

The SkillsUSA Championship showcases top CTE students from high schools around the state with winners advancing to the national competition in Atlanta this summer. MCEF runs the competition with help from the Mississippi Department of Education, industry partners and contractors, trade associations and labor organizations.

“In addition to being a competitive challenge, the SkillsUSA Championship is a great networking opportunity that brings CTE students together with many of Mississippi’s top industry employers,” said Barkett. “Students are serious about doing their best and winning.”

Also being recognized during the event will be winners of MCEF’s Building Futures Construction Competition. Since November, CTE student teams from around the state have been busy building wood and metal projects for a chance to win $1,000 cash prizes for their schools.

Meanwhile, participants in the counselors’ workshop will enjoy a front-row view of the construction industry via hands-on building activities that boost their understanding of the trades and equip them to encourage students to pursue career and technical education.

“This is one of the most important events of the year,” said Barkett. “Much more than a competition, it celebrates the many ways modern CTE programs are preparing students for stable, rewarding futures that will help move Mississippi forward.”

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.

Learn more about MCEF at http://mcef.net.