Business News for the Mississippi Delta

AccelerateMS Serves the Delta

By Jack Criss

Kimberley Jones-Gatewood Heads Ecosystem 3

“Mississippi will have a world-class workforce with unlimited, quality career opportunities to create sustained individual, community and statewide economic prosperity.”

This is the stated mission of AccelerateMS (Office Of Workforce Development) a recently-created office authorized by the Mississippi Legislature in early 2021 as a “partnership” of sorts with the Mississippi Development Authority. 

AccelerateMS serves the people and businesses of Mississippi by developing and deploying workforce strategies to connect individuals with transformative, high-paying careers. By leveraging resources and partnering with organizations that hold complementary missions, AccelerateMS effectuates positive change, creating sustained individual, community and statewide economic prosperity.

The AccelerateMS Ecosystem approach is designed to develop and improve strategies that meet the unique needs of specific regions within the state. We seek to maximize proven practices delivered at local micro levels, while addressing macro concerns in an effort to meet the current and emergent needs of Mississippi’s workforce.

Each ecosystem has a dedicated AccelerateMS team member, who serves as the central point of contact within their sphere of influence. Each ecosystem routinely reviews labor market data, supply chain needs, available educational and training resources, and regional/community assets in an effort to more accurately meet needs in real time. Regular meetings with ecosystem stakeholders encourage collaboration and promote the development of workforce strategies focused on the needs of each specific ecosystem.

Kimberley Jones-Gatewood serves Ecosystem 3 which encompasses Bolivar, Carroll, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Sharkey, Sunflower, and Washington counties.

A Delta native, who was born in Greenwood, Jones-Gatewood says her lifetime in the Delta is one of the motivators that drives her passion for working to improve the lives of those here in the area, which she feels can best be done in her new role with AccelerateMS. 

In the past, Jones-Gatewood has worked in the area of workforce for the past twenty years and counts as the highpoints of her career the employment successes she has helped those in the Delta to obtain. 

Having begun her workforce career as an Unemployment Claims Representative with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security in 2003, Jones-Gatewood soon realized the need to help move those individuals from unemployed to becoming tax paying citizens again. Because of that desire, when she was approached to serve in another capacity with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security as a WIA Representative, she immediately accepted the offer. In this new role, Jones-Gatewood was afforded the opportunity to work and interact with students at many local community colleges and institutions of higher learning as they were navigating through their chosen fields of study. 

This opportunity also led to her next role as a WIOA Counselor/Rapid Response Coordinator for Mississippi Delta Community College/The Charles Capps Technology Center. In this capacity, Jones-Gatewood had the privilege of continuing the partnership between the community college and the WIN Job Center (MDES) as she worked with the adult population who were entering short-term training programs that would soon lead them to employment. She also had the privilege of working with high school students as they also navigated through training program options.

Jones-Gatewood began her new role as Ecosystem Coordinator for AccelarteMS in August of 2022 and, through this organization, understands that building strong relationships among workforce stakeholders is vital to Mississippi’s future workforce success. 

“I want every one of our local industries, businesses and all workforce partners to consider me as their initial point of contact regarding workforce needs,” says Jones-Gatewood. “One of my top and  key priorities is to work with those entities which are necessary for a healthy ecosystem to build upon practices and strategize approaches for best meeting those workforce needs. This was a perfect opportunity for me and I plan to work hard at doing this work, which I love.

“I travel all of my nine counties that I cover on a regular basis, meeting with public and private officials on many different levels–from business owners to college presidents–to promote best practices and how to work together in a better way,” says Jones-Gatewood. “We offer a number of programs and initiatives to facilitate good career choices, especially to our students, which will ultimately help our economy. And, of course, our end mission is to keep our young people here in Mississippi to stop the brain drain–and to do so on the same page from a state perspective. I think we’ve been successful so far, but I also think we have a long way to go–I’ve taken baby steps. But we have a long way to go. The right people are certainly in place in AccelerateMS, but the work won’t stop–that’s for sure.”

As far as the future–for both her and the state? “I want to see the Delta get more industry,” she says, “which I think AccelerateMS can help achieve. We need more businesses and industries here for our people. And that’s what our mission is all about. The work will doing will initiate change for the entire state–it WILL have a positive effect. Of that, I’m certain.”