Partnership between business, education builds for our future

Published 10:10 am Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Mississippi Scholars Tech Master Program is getting down to business.

Unveiled in January, Tech Master is a parallel offering to Mississippi Scholars. While Mississippi Scholars focuses on students more likely to pursue a four-year college program, the goal of Tech Master is to help prepare Mississippi students for the technical jobs that are so in demand in today’s work place.

Recently, the Mississippi Economic Council brought Kenny Goza of Brookhaven onboard to oversee Mississippi Scholars and Tech Master in the state, and on Tuesday, Goza brought a group of educators together with business leaders to work on getting the tech program going locally.

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“This is not just an issue for Rex; lack of labor is a nationwide issue,” said Doug Boykin, with Rex Lumber Co., which was the site for Tuesday’s meeting. “We want to marry local industry needs with what high schools and Co-Lin can provide,” Boykin said. “We need to let students and parents know the opportunities that let them stay at home.”

The demand for workers with technical knowledge and skills for critical thinking, mathematics and communication continues to grow as the job environment becomes increasingly high tech.

Local high school students who participate in the Tech Master program will be required to complete 21 to 24 course credits comprised of classes in English; mathematics, including Algebra I and geometry; science, including Biology I and two courses above Biology I; social studies, including American history, government and Mississippi studies; computer; and health/physical education; plus electives in their program of studies and public service work

In addition, based on discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, plans call for offering training for the students through local businesses. “We want to expose students to job sites, not just classrooms,” Brad Turner, with the Brookhaven School District Building Trades Institute, said Tuesday. In addition to Turner, representatives from other local high schools and Copiah-Lincoln Community College, plus the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce were on hand for Tuesday’s meeting.

Rex Lumber’s Tom Myers said that his company will work with high school students in and out of the classrooms to discuss possible careers and help build core job skills.

Tech Master has the potential to do for the technical fields what Mississippi Scholars has already done for college prep. Since it began in 2006, the Lincoln County Mississippi Scholars program has presented more than $750,000 in scholarships, while also preparing those award recipients for their college studies through rigorous high school coursework and public service requirements.

Future Tech Master graduates will be better qualified for the military, good jobs in today’s work place or further study at two-year or four-year colleges or special schools.

The outstanding track record of Mississippi Scholars in Lincoln County over the years is well respected in the local area, so we fully expect to see the same kind of positive results from the Tech Master program. But to do that, it’s going to take the same kind of effort and support by local businesses, industries and volunteers.

We commend Rex Lumber for getting involved and encourage other businesses and industries to join forces with Tech Master, Copiah-Lincoln Community College and the chamber to boost our students’ skills and future employment opportunities.

We need to do all we can now to enable them to have jobs here when they graduate.