Committee Reports

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The FORGE Foundation Will Host A Three-Day In-Person Skilled Trades Career Fair

COLUMBUS, MS – Tuesday night, The FORGE Foundation will begin a three-day in- person Skilled Trades Career Fair. Over three days, approximately 2000 area students from 18 different schools will have the opportunity to learn about careers in skilled trades from more than 35 local employers.

The FORGE Career Expo kicks off at the EMCC Communiversity, on Tuesday, October 18, from 5-7pm as FORGE partners with the Regional Business After Hours event sponsored by the Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce. Adults will have the opportunity to see the Career Expo firsthand. They can enjoy operating equipment, laying bricks, finishing concrete, and sitting in bulldozers just like the kids. FORGE will also host music from one of their own members, Goodloe Chillcutt with New Home Building Stores. Beginning Wednesday at 7:30 am,
the Expo will be hosting students from 18 surrounding schools. The Expo will continue Thursday, running 7:30 am – 2:00 pm. The event is co-hosted by the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation (MCEF) and East Mississippi Community College. The goal of the Career Expo is to expose and connect students with the necessary information and tools to explore a career in the skilled trades.

While students are touring the expo on Wednesday, FORGE and MCEF will host a counselor’s workshop from 9 am – 3pm. FORGE feels strongly about influencing the decision makers that actually enroll students in skilled trades courses in our schools. Over 30 area high school and
middle school counselors will enjoy an interaction with a panel and a guided tour of the expo. Thursday morning, the FORGE Career Expo will host the Gallo show from 6:15 am – 9:30 am. Gallo will broadcast live from the EMCC Communiversity and interview guest that will discuss a
variety of topics concerning workforce shortages, skilled trades, and the next generation of skilled trades rockstars.

Founded in 2018, FORGE (Family Organizations Recruiting Great Employees) is comprised of a group of locally-owned small businesses, most of which are in their 2nd and 3rd generation of owners. Before founding FORGE, individually these companies were to the point of stealing
labor from each other and were defeating their goal of strengthening each other and the community in which they work. They began to work together on determining a more long-term solution, and thus inspired FORGE. Formed with the vision of strengthening the budding
partnerships with local schools and being able to help teach students how to one day be ready for the workforce, FORGE allows these companies to now work as a team to help build the workforce of tomorrow.

“This expo is a great opportunity for students to learn how to link their current educational outlook to a skilled trade. We want students to learn not only how they can enter these fields but thrive and advance as experts and leaders in these industries. We want to showcase our community as pioneers in developing a workforce pipeline beginning in K-12 and continuing through to trade school, community college, or 4- year programs,” said Katie McCrary, a FORGE founding board member from McCrary- West Construction.

The majority of students participating in the Career Expo are students who are in 8th grade. This group of students were chosen because they are traditionally making the decision to enter career technical programs or not at this age.

FORGE has dedicated their time away from their businesses to helping the next generation of tradesmen BUILD their skillset and future of workforce in the surrounding communities. Events like the FORGE Career Expo shows that the Golden Triangle community is rallying around the same cause.

This career fair is not just an opportunity for students to meet experts in various industries, but also an opportunity for students to learn how their interests can integrate into the skilled trades of the future. The construction industry is now utilizing drone pilots, gps plotting software,
robots, and lots of other cool technology that these students are not aware exist in skilled trades. The trades industry is using these new tools to peak interest in these fields and accelerate the region’s economic growth along the way showing that our local workforce is
talented, skilled, and ready to work.

Students will have the opportunity to provide their contact information to industries at the trades expo and EMCC staff will be on hand to help students explore a post- secondary plan. Today’s tradespeople are innovators and entrepreneurs, creators, and dreamers. The trades are
foundational to our economic prosperity and our everyday lives. For a complete list of FORGE members and to learn more about their foundation, please click here.