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Jackson Schools Equip Students for the Future

Career-readiness programs in Jackson are preparing Mississippi students for in-demand jobs.

By Lindsey Hyde on February 11, 2023

Jackson, MS, has programs available that emphasize science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) learning.
Argenis Apolinario

A number of strategies are underway in the Jackson Metro to create a more skilled, job-ready workforce. Behind these plans lie area schools, businesses and organizations that are working to ensure students and young adults receive the training needed to fill in-demand jobs and obtain successful careers.

Career-readiness programs can be found in Jackson schools. For example, Madison County Schools – the fifth-largest district in the state – provides career academies to students beginning in ninth grade. Combining classroom and hands-on work, students are able to explore occupations in professions such as health sciences, law and public safety, engineering, multimedia and communications, and culinary arts.

While exceptions can be made, each career academy is a four-year program, offering one course each year.

“It gives them a chance to explore career options before they exit high school and, hopefully, develop a career plan,” says Blaise King, the district’s director of career academies and career and technical education.

Caring Companies in Jackson

Several companies across the region have also been pondering the future and the role today’s students will play in making it successful.

Take, for instance, C Spire, a privately owned telecommunications and technology company based in Ridgeland. In early 2021, its foundation made a $1 million commitment to help school districts across the state implement computer science programs in the classroom.

“It’s not about training everyone to be a computer scientist,” says Chris Champion, vice president of government relations at C Spire. “Everyone needs to know computer science skills, because whether you’re a diesel mechanic or a teller at a bank or a neurosurgeon, you’re all using technology in the way you conduct work now, so that’s why we felt like beginning to train kids even at the kindergarten level through the 12th grade is important for the future.”

The money is being put toward providing computer science training workshops for teachers so they can best educate students on the subject. Close to 1,000 teachers were trained during the summer of 2022, according to Champion.

Refill Jackson empowers young adults ages 18 to 24 so that they are equipped to enter the workforce.
Refill Jackson

Individualized Approach

Also helping prepare individuals for the workforce is The Refill Jackson Initiative, a nonprofit that uses an individualized approach to help Jackson’s most vulnerable individuals ages 18 through 24 set a clear plan for their future.

Located in a renovated coffeehouse in West Jackson, the organization hosts roughly five cohorts a year, where 15 young adults, or “members,” are paid to spend eight weeks learning in the classroom and completing on-the-job training at an off-site location.

Each member is paired with a business or an organization, such as a home health care agency, hospital or restaurant, where they can apply the skills they are learning in the classroom.

“We meet these young people where they are, find out what challenges they face in their personal lives, assess their education and vocational capabilities, and then we create a plan – an individualized plan – for each of these young people over the next eight weeks to move them from point A to point B,” says Jeff Good, a restaurateur and chair of The Refill Jackson Initiative.

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