PEARL ― Over the course of his employment with the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, Brent Bean has helped new generations of Mississippians discover rewarding careers in the construction industry while elevating the quality of the state’s career and technical education programs. In recognition of his support for Mississippi’s construction workforce, Bean is a recipient of the President’s Hard Hat Award from MCEF.

Presented annually during MCEF’s awards day festivities, the award recognizes individuals who go above and beyond to boost workforce development in Mississippi.

“Brent not only excels at his job but has been my right arm whenever I’ve needed him,” said Mike Barkett, MCEF president. “He has always been able to step in, pick things up and make things happen. That’s especially true for schools, instructors and students who rely on MCEF’s support and involvement to prepare the trade professionals of the future.”

“Being in the same category as other Hard Hat award recipients that I admire is a big honor,” said Bean, vice president of adult craft training. “I feel this award not only recognizes me but all of the people who’ve helped me along the way at MCEF.”

A native of McComb, Bean received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Delta State University. After graduation, he was employed as a manager of Walmart in Cleveland, Mississippi, for five years.

Bean joined MCEF in 2016 after working for a temporary staffing agency where he focused on finding employees for the manufacturing industry. The experience deepened his appreciation for workforce development and the role it plays in helping Mississippi’s businesses and industries stay competitive.

After hiring on with MCEF as an area director, Bean visited high schools that offered career and technical education programs to talk to students about opportunities in construction and manufacturing. What he found was that students were generally receptive; however, another key audience needed convincing.

“A lot of the effort was about educating parents, which is the battle right now,” Bean said. “The younger generation is fascinated with working with their hands and learning skills, and now we need to get others on board. Construction trades are not dead-end jobs but stable careers that can provide a great living with competitive pay and benefits. I tell students that they’re training for high-demand jobs, and employers will be fighting over them. We’re seeing that happen.”

As VP of adult craft training, Bean’s primary responsibility is overseeing MCEF’s apprenticeship program, which trains around 200 students a year. Approved by the Department of Labor, the program prepares craft professionals in eight trades: carpentry, electrical, HVAC, pipefitting, plumbing, sheet metal, welding and interior finish.

Students must work for an approved employer to be accepted into the four-year program that includes a total of 576 hours of classroom instruction and 8,000 on-the-job training hours. Students work during the day and take classes at night. Likewise, their instructors also work full-time for commercial businesses and teach at night.

“One of the unique things about our program is that all our instructors are full-time trade professionals, so they’re up to date on the latest codes, tools and technologies,” Bean said. “They’re working in the field every day and serving customers, so they know what they’re talking about. Many of them completed MCEF’s apprentice training program and now own their own companies.”

Having career options is important in enhancing students’ employability. Thanks to MCEF programs, students enrolled in CTE programs can get the training they need to land good jobs after graduation. Even if they earn college degrees to prepare for other professions, they’ll always have their CTE skills to fall back on, if needed.

In addition to craft skills, the CTE curriculum includes soft skills training in areas such as written and verbal communication, teamwork, punctuality, meeting deadlines, following directions and other qualities that are valued in the workplace.

“With the right attitude and work ethic, the sky’s the limit,” Bean said. “You can start as a plumber’s helper and work your way up to leading your own company. We see that happen all the time. MCEF is focused on getting those success stories out there because the construction industry needs more skilled workers, and we want to prepare more Mississippians to benefit from those career opportunities.”

MCEF is a non-profit educational foundation that provides NCCER craft training and credentialing in more than 100 career and technical programs across the state. The foundation’s mission is to train individuals for the construction and manufacturing industries in Mississippi.

MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades. Learn more about MCEF at