PEARL ― As president of the Mississippi State Board of Contractors, president of Sanderson Construction Company and a former craft educator, Tony Carroll has worn many hats in the construction industry. In recognition of his support for Mississippi’s construction workforce, Carroll added another hat to his collection as a recipient of the President’s Hard Hat Award from the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation.

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

“Whenever I call on Tony for help, he’s always there,” said Mike Barkett, MCEF president. “That was especially evident 10 years ago when he helped organize the first Team Build Competition in Jackson for career and technical education students. He brings a fresh perspective that allows us to create and provide stronger programs and services that are helping close the gap in the state’s construction workforce needs.”

Supporting MCEF was precisely what Carroll had in mind when he arrived at the foundation’s annual awards festivities in May.

“When Mike called and asked me to attend, I thought he needed me to do something,” Carroll said with a laugh. “And I was willing to do it. It’s quite an honor to be recognized with the President’s Hard Hat Award, but I’ve been more impressed over the years with how MCEF has grown and become a very effective organization.”

As project manager for MCEF’s Team Build Competition, Carroll helps organize and conduct the annual event that attracts hundreds of high school and community college CTE students each year. During the timed competition, four-person teams are presented with plans for a construction project, such as a storage shed, along with necessary tools and materials. Winners in each category advance to the national competition.

“Their projects can get pretty involved, and they have to demonstrate not only carpentry but other skills they’ve learned in their training programs,” Carroll said. “It’s impressive to see how well-prepared the teams are and the different levels of expertise. The most important thing is how well they cooperate and follow instructions, because what gets them on the team is their ability to work with others.”

Carroll credits MCEF for helping establish high-quality CTE programs in Mississippi high schools and community colleges that help train around 5,000 students a year for jobs in the construction industry. When Mississippi has a skilled and capable workforce, everyone benefits—even his competitors, which Carroll sees as an advantage.

“I want Sanderson Construction employees as well as my competitor’s employees to receive the best training possible,” Carroll said. “If employees are well trained and know how to create a safe work environment, that benefits everyone by preventing accidents and injuries as well as higher insurance premiums. There are many reasons why we want everyone to be successful and safe.”

A native of Tupelo, Carroll earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial education from Mississippi State University and began teaching industrial education at Tupelo High School while working construction jobs in the summer. Later, he taught night classes at Itawamba Junior College as part of the “Wheels of Learning” craft training curricula developed by Associated Builders and Contractors. He joined Pryor Construction in 1987 and Sanderson Construction in 1994.

In the 1990s, Carroll and fellow construction industry advocates in Mississippi partnered with the National Center for Construction Education and Research and the Mississippi Department of Education to develop a modernized curriculum for the state’s high schools. They also worked to get legislation passed that created a funding mechanism for CTE programs based on contractor licensing fees. Eventually, those efforts led to the formation of MCEF.

“The construction industry and consumers benefit from a skilled workforce,” Carroll said. “MCEF’s training programs expose students to valuable skills, and their credentials are transferable—they can go anywhere in the U.S. and get hired. MCEF is making sure our students have high-quality training programs in every respect to support Mississippi’s growing construction workforce needs.”

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