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Retired Major General Augustus Leon Collins was the featured speaker to the Southaven Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Luncheon. Collins leads a Jackson firm that contracts with the U.S. Department of Labor to operate all of the nation’s Job Corps Training Centers in seven states, including Mississippi and Tennessee.

The head of a firm that oversees the nation’s Job Corps Centers, including one in Memphis, reminded Southaven business leaders about the trained and ready workforce available that they may have overlooked. 

Ret. Major General Augustus Leon Collins was the featured speaker at the Southaven Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Luncheon held at the Landers Center.

The Booneville native currently is the CEO of MINACT Inc. of Jackson. It is a job development and career training corporation the U.S. Department of Labor has contracted with to operate the Job Corps Centers in seven states, including Mississippi and Tennessee. The Benjamin Hooks facility in Memphis is one of those that MINACT helps operate.

Collins reminded his audience in Southaven of three numbers he detests, because it’s the numbers most Americans think of when they think of Mississippi.

“The three numbers I hate the most are: 48, 49, and 50,” Collins said. “Those numbers are associated with Mississippi in so many ways. We’ve got to see the goodness in Mississippi and if you don’t tell your own story, somebody else will tell it for you. We’ve got to change the conversation from 48, 49, and 50.”

Collins urged his audience as employers to look for opportunities to provide opportunity.

“This area is doing rather well right now but in order to keep any type of progress that you have seen over the last decade or so, you’ve got to continue to change and develop, because if you don’t, you’re going to be left behind,” said Collins.

Part of what the Job Corps Center do is to provide training and opportunity to make ready a workforce Collins said will fill jobs currently not being filled.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 6.9 million jobs vacant jobs, and they’ll tell you the reason we can’t fill them is that we don’t have a trained and ready workforce,” he said. “In most cases, they are really good, high-paying jobs.”

Collins had a group from the Benjamin Hooks Center come to the luncheon and had them stand to visualize some of those available to work.

“We have young men and women in this community who need direction and opportunity and you are the ones who are going to give that to them,” Collins noted. “If you don’t give it to them, they’re going to go somewhere else to get it.

Collins has had a well-documented background in the military prior to beginning his work with MINACT in 2016. He is the former commanding general of the Mississippi National Guard and was promoted to brigadier general while serving in Iraq in 2005.

Collins became the first African-American to attain the rank of general in the history of the Mississippi National Guard, retiring from the Guard in 2016.

His background also included time on active duty as part of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm 1990-91 as well as commanding a team during operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom between 2004-2006.

In addition to supporting the Job Corps program, MINACT also offers on-site employee training, records management, pay disbursement and other services.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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