PEARL ― As an active supporter of adult craft training in Mississippi, Brandon business leader Matt McWilliams is being honored by the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation as a recipient of the 2022 President’s Hard Hat Award.

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

“The success of Mississippi depends on a skilled workforce, and Matt is doing his part to create opportunities for more Mississippians to experience rewarding careers in the construction industry,” said Mike Barkett, MCEF president. “His investments help make the difference in the success of our programs.”

McWilliams, a 27-year veteran of the construction and engineering industry and a partner with Thrash Commercial Contractors in Brandon, said he was unaware of MCEF’s impact before becoming a board member two years ago.

“Once I learned more about MCEF, I was all in,” said McWilliams. “What a privilege to be involved in helping modernize the construction industry in Mississippi while building a safe, productive, and sustainable workforce of craft professionals.”

An example of McWilliams’ support came last year as MCEF was launching “Project Second Chance” a 12-week, skills-based carpentry program to help inmates re-enter the workforce. In addition to providing training materials, he took it a step further and hired trainees from the program once they’d served their sentences.

“That’s the kind of commitment we count on to make our efforts at MCEF work,” said Barkett.

McWilliams noted that MCEF also benefits Thrash Commercial Contractors and other construction companies throughout the state by offering high-quality training programs for plumbers, carpenters, electricians, welders, truck drivers and other trades.

“Many electrical and mechanical subcontractors who work with Thrash have sent their employees through MCEF’s training programs to improve their skills,” he said. “Thrash benefits because these employees do quality work. MCEF also helps us find carpenters to do our general construction work and provides training to improve their skills so they can move into higher positions in our company, such as foreman and superintendent.”

As principal of Thrash Commercial Contractors, McWilliams provides oversight of all administrative and financial directives within the company. He is also past president of Associated General Contractors of Mississippi.

McWilliams received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Mississippi State University, where he was a member of the Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honor Society. He also received a Juris Doctor degree from University of Mississippi School of Law. He holds professional licenses in engineering, land surveying and LEED accreditation.

McWilliams lives in Brandon and enjoys spending time with his wife, Wendy, and children, James, Rebecca and Bennett. They are active members of Colonial Heights Baptist Church.

About adding a President’s Hard Hat Award to his achievements, McWilliams would rather shine the spotlight elsewhere.

“It’s always nice to be recognized for helping out, but the people who really deserve the award are those who work for MCEF to continuously improve training and education for the construction industry,” McWilliams said. “I would encourage other companies to take a little time to visit MCEF’s website and find out more about how MCEF can benefit their business.”

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