A pilot program in seven high schools in the state that is designed to improve the state’s workforce — while giving high school graduates better job and educational opportunities — has been more successful than expected with 200 graduating seniors recognized from the new Mississippi Scholars Tech Master program.
The new program is the brainchild of the Mississippi Economic Council and leaders from some of the state’s largest employers who joined forces with the Mississippi Department of Education to create a program that will help the state improve its workforce readiness.
The Mississippi Scholars program has recognized more than 27,000 students over the past 10 years for completing the Mississippi Scholars curriculum. The Scholars curriculum is designed to prepare high school students who are on the path of a four-year college degree, with a particular emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.
The new MSTM program is focused on providing support and recognition of students who are on a vocational career technical (vo-tech) path.
The pilot program for vo-tech students started in January in the seven counties: Bolivar, Jackson, Jones, Lincoln, Madison, Panola and Union.
MEC President Blake Wilson said they expected 50 students to be involved in the pilot, and instead recognized more than 200.
“We know there is a real demand for this project,” Wilson said.
“So, we are pretty excited about it. We will take it to scale this coming school year. We will see what tweaks are needed in the program, and then will roll it out pretty hard. The idea is to encourage kids starting in the ninth grade to sign up for this course of study.”
Wilson said in order to achieve this recognition, students must commit to meeting standards in curriculum, performance and citizenship.
“Becoming a MSTM graduate helps students qualify for college, military and good jobs with benefits in today’s competitive workplace,” he said.
Some of the state’s largest private employers such as Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula partnered with education leaders in developing the curriculum for the new program. Many craftspeople at industries such as Ingalls Shipbuilding earn beginning salaries higher than the average starting salary of a four-year, liberal arts graduate.
MEC Senior Vice President of Foundations Vickie Powell said one of the things their Tech Master Council wanted to integrate into the program was geometry.
“That is mandatory of those students we recognize with the Tech Master medallion,” Powell said.
“They also have to complete community service hours. We are looking not only at academics, but also at good citizenship. The first year, it was 20 hours of community service and next year it will be 40 hours.”
Additional requirements include:
» A minimum of 18 ACT composite score (overall score) or a Minimum 36 ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test).
» 2.5 high school GPA.
» 95 percent school attendance during high school years.
» No out-of school suspension.
» Must attain a passing score, as established by the Mississippi Department of Education, on the Mississippi Career Planning and Assessment System (CPAS2), or a passing score on an MDE approved industry certification assessment.
MSTM students must complete any remaining state-mandated high school graduation requirements. Dual credit courses are acceptable.
Powell said the high schools involved with the pilot program were very pleased with its success.
“We are developing the future workforce of the entire state, and employers want students who are workforce and career ready,” she said.
“Well-paying jobs require effective communication skills, solid basic math skills and the ability to think creatively and carry out multiple tasks. Becoming a MSTM will help students qualify for college, military and skilled jobs with benefits in today’s competitive job market.”
Powell said the Tech Master program will not only create more educational and workforce opportunities for skilled students, but also acknowledge the critical role those who want to pursue the vocational career tech field play in the state’s workforce.
The MSTM program is managed by the Public Education Forum of Mississippi.
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