Forward thinking vital for schools

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 7, 2008

In the 1950’s, 60 percent of jobs in Mississippi were filledwith unskilled workers – today it takes only 15 percent of thestate’s workforce to fill those same slots. As a result, the stateis filled with struggling communities whose workforces can nolonger compete as the jobs those workers once had are nowoverseas.

Former Secretary of State Eric Clark discussed the situationthis past week with business leaders gathered at Copiah-LincolnCommunity College. Clark, now the executive director of the Boardof Community and Junior Colleges, was making the point of theimportance of the community college system to the state’s economicgrowth.

Clark told the group that in 12 years the U.S. Labor Departmentpredicts there will be a 320 percent increase in the number of jobsthat require skilled labor. Communities that are able to supplythose workers will be the successful communities of the future thatgrow and thrive here in Mississippi.

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Clark’s focus, of course, is on the state’s community collegesand the niche they fill to provide the state’s skilled labor.

We think, however, to be even more successful, that effort hasto move further down the education ladder to a community’s primaryand secondary schools. It is at that level where minds aredeveloped, dreams are set and interest is piqued.

At Bogue Chitto Attendance Center, efforts are being made to dojust that.

Desiring to upgrade its science curriculum, the school is addinga unit called Biomedical Research – a laboratory based program thatexposes Bogue Chitto students to DNA research. Students willparticipate in a program developed 16 years ago by the UniversityMedical Center for the Jackson Public Schools. They will be exposedto medical professionals – only instead of side-by-side they willbe video-to-video.

This type of forward thinking by BCA and using Internettechnology will begin building a pool of skilled workers that willbe needed in the future.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the limitations this area has inattracting the Nissan, Toyota and others super-site industriescurrently looking at Mississippi.

With our small population base in Southwest Mississippi, itbecomes vital that this area prepare its future workers at a higherlevel than other parts of the state. Doing so allows us to findmore specialized and possibly higher-paying jobs for ourcitizens.

Clark’s comments are right on target, as are the forwardthinking efforts of Bogue Chitto teachers and school officials.