An energy curriculum developed by Mississippi State University for high school students is entering its second year, and the pilot program could add school districts for the current academic year.
Conceived with a handful of the state’s energy companies and developed by MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit, the program focuses students on several areas of the state’s energy sector. That includes energy generation, industry regulations, major employers and traditional and emerging technologies the first year. The second year delves into alternative sources of energy, including wind, solar, nuclear and biomass.
“RCU does a lot of the research as to what the national trends are and the best practices for teaching students, as well as working with industries to write the curriculum,” director of the MDE’s office of career and technical education Mike Mulvihill said. “RCU also does the professional development for our teachers to make sure they’re properly trained to teach the students. They help in the assessment, too. They have the expertise and opportunity to do that type of research and find the trends and best practices. They get us the best coursework that we can get.”
The curriculum was pilot tested in three school districts during the 2012-2013 school year – Lamar and Lawrence counties and Pascagoula city schools. School districts considering adoption of the program include Clairborne, DeSoto and Jefferson counties and Madison County schools.
All those districts sit in close proximity to energy-focused industries. RCU instructional design specialist LeAnn Miller said that was by design, as those businesses helped design the program.
“We looked at what Mississippi energy industries asked for and took what they had researched because they’re going to be the ones who employ our students,” she said.
Entergy, Mississippi Power, Gulf Power, Strategic Biomass Solutions, and Alstom are among the participants that helped develop the curriculum. Miller said Southern Power, the Southern Company’s electric generation company, as well as the National Center for Construction Education and Research also provided input.
“Mississippi has all these resources in energy — nuclear, oil, natural gas, biomass,” Miller said. “So many people helped develop this energy curriculum, and we want to spread the word that jobs are out there and they’re growing. Mississippi is a key state positioned to meet this global need.”
Miller said many employees will be retiring from energy industries beginning in 2014-15.
“There’s going to be a gap,” she said. “We’re trying to get people in high school interested in the field so they can go directly into an apprenticeship, do community college programming or go into an engineering field at a four-year institution like Mississippi State.”
She said studies indicate that university-level training in energy could allow graduates to become supervisors making $85,000 a year; natural gas specialists or supervisors, transmission or distribution utility supervisors, or generation supervisors, all $75,000 annually; nuclear plant supervisors, $85,000; chemists, $54,000; or engineers, $63,000.
Miller said these jobs and their prospective annual salaries were determined with cooperation from the Center for Energy Workforce Development, a non-profit consortium of electric, natural gas and nuclear utilities and their associations. They include the Edison Electric Institute, American Gas Association, Nuclear Energy Institute and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.