Lincoln County pilot area for Tech Master programPublished 11:02pm Saturday, January 11, 2014
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The Mississippi Scholars program, sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council, is piloting a new program called Tech Master that recognizes students who plan to go through a one or two year technical certification school instead of college. The council believes this will improve Mississippi’s pool of talent and get more people workforce ready.
Kenny Goza with Entergy and also one of a number of local business people that sponsor the Mississippi Scholars program in Lincoln County, said this will encourage students who are thinking about technical training.
“We think it will be very important for the state,” he said. “I think it’s also great for our kids that we are partnering students with businesses around the state to get on a career path that is a one to two year program and gives them a direct pathway to opportunities in a field of work.
“What Tech Master is trying to do is show students who are not going the academic pathway what they need to do to get into fields of work that require technical certification,” Goza added.
In a recent press release from Mississippi Scholars, the Tech Master program was described as being a program that will:
“(E)ncourage and recognize students to pursue and meet specific standards in a tech-prep course of study. Their achievements will be recognized at graduation, just as the Mississippi Scholars program currently distinguishes those who pursue a college-bound study, with a particular emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.”
The release quotes Irwin F. Edenzon, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding and Corporate vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries, as saying, “Many of our craftspeople earn beginning salaries higher than a starting salary of a four-year, liberal arts graduate. As the state’s largest manufacturing employer, we have made a real commitment to encourage students to pursue work as craftspeople.”
Marketing director with the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Kay Burton said the local business group who supports students in the Mississippi Scholars program has hoped for a program like Tech Master for a while.
“We had a dream for this several years ago,” Burton said. “We saw a need to recognize students who were going above and beyond, who were on a technical career path. They have to meet a set of curriculum just like students in the scholars program.”
Goza said Lincoln County was among only seven of Mississippi’s 82 counties that were chosen for this pilot program run by the MEC, because the council saw what they were already doing here in Lincoln County.
“As we began to develop the Mississippi Scholars program, we realized that we weren’t recognizing students taking technical courses. And, these courses weren’t being encouraged enough as alternate opportunities.” Goza said.
“We started working with Co-Lin and brought in instructors from the tech programs offered there to the high schools for special presentations.” He said these early endeavors caught the attention of the economic council.
“We were selected because we have launched a lot of relationships between the local community colleges and businesses with students,” Goza said, “so that when students graduate they have opportunities open to them.”
He believes more businesses and industry will see the positive impact and invest in local students.
“If businesses are interested in investing in scholars by funding programs or scholarships, or offer other incentives,” he said, “businesses will not have to look outside of the community for qualified personnel.”
Burton said she and the others in the chamber of commerce are proud of what the local businesses are doing with the scholars program. She said chamber members are deeply involved and interested in what local students are doing.
“Our Mississippi Scholars program is recognized as the top program in the state,” Burton said proudly, “and we’ve been working on this technical aspect for several years. It combines academics with technical skills. This gets them more workforce-ready along with college-bound requirements.”
Burton added that a lot of Mississippi’s largest corporations and industries are in full support of the program.
“The director at MEC has said that since they announced the program they have had a lot of major Mississippi businesses call and say they are on board,” Burton said.”
These technical students will be expected to have the same critical-thinking and creative problem-solving skills as the college-bound kids, and Goza said it is time that Mississippi try something different.
“We have to change the way we are doing things,” he said, “and, I think if we give students another pathway, we may affect the dropout rate and I’m excited about what we can do with it to affect business and industry.”
To learn more about the program, those interested can contact their school counselor or visit the website, www.msmec.com/mississippi-scholars.