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Programs Propel Students in Jackson, TN

Hands-on educational initiatives in West Tennessee help launch successful careers.

By Bill Lewis on June 28, 2021

Jackson, TN
Trey Clark

Partnerships between schools and business are extending educational opportunities beyond the classroom and helping students prepare for successful careers in Jackson, TN.>

“The more aligned K-12, higher education and the local workforce are, the better it is for the state as a whole and individual Tennesseans,” says Emily House, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.>

Initiatives include the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) program, which prioritizes learning opportunities in rural counties and enhances Career and Technical Education statewide.>

Thanks to a $927,580 GIVE Grant awarded to the Jackson-Madison County Manufacturing Alliance by Gov. Bill Lee, Jackson State Community College (JSCC) will receive funding for equipment and the Jackson-Madison County School System (JMCSS) will receive money to build a workforce development center at Jackson Central-Merry Early College High.

“Programs like GIVE bring players from K-12, higher ed and the workforce to the table to discuss industry needs and the skills and credentials needed to meet these needs,” House says. “We can do so at a state level, but doing so locally – emphasizing local workforce needs – is especially powerful.

Further, giving students the opportunity, while still in high school, to learn skills leading to high-demand jobs helps with college and career decision-making following high school graduation.”

Jackson, TN
Trey Clark

Work-based Learning Leads to Careers

University of Memphis Research Foundation (UMRF) Ventures, created as the result of a FedEx grant, develops part-time, on-campus jobs for University of Memphis students as well as potential career paths with partner companies after graduation.

Since 2017, UMRF has created employment opportunities for more than 400 students, paid more than $4 million in student wages and helped place 20 students in full-time careers with partner companies.

LOOP (Local Options & Opportunities Program), which began in 2018, is a work-based learning program that offers a half day paid work placement and half day in academics to high school juniors and seniors in the Jackson-Madison County School System.

So far, participants have been placed in advanced manufacturing and food service. The initiative will add health care and professional services, human resources, accounting and other career tracks in the future. LOOP allows high school students in Jackson to finish academic credits through an online learning lab model with teacher support and work in a manufacturing facility or food service business for half of the day.

Jackson, TN
Courtesy of Jackson Madison County School System

Hands-On Training While in High School

This experience takes place at the manufacturing site instead of the high school. The program allows students to learn about time management, teamwork, professional etiquette and many other work-related soft skills.

“Students must also learn to interview and practice safety protocol as part of their learning experience,” says Nathan Lewis, director of Career and Technical Education for the Jackson-Madison County School System.

The LAUNCH Career Readiness Initiative is a new approach that allows students to explore education and employment options during and after their K-12 years. It focuses on career pathways in high demand in Jackson so the district can pursue partnerships with local colleges and industry that align with those pathways.

“Students are exposed to careers and allowed to learn about what it would be like to work in various professions. Students can earn industry certifications, dual credit and work experience. Students gain knowledge about the wide array of careers available in our area,” Lewis says.

Introduction to Manufacturing

Another initiative, Manufacturing Day, offers students in Jackson an opportunity to learn about employment possibilities by interacting with current employees, touring plants and attending sessions.

In 2020, Manufacturing Day became a monthlong virtual event made up of panel discussions and virtual tours.

“The goal of Manufacturing Day is for students to be exposed to the many modern opportunities available to them,” says Vicki Bunch, executive director of the Southwest Tennessee Workforce Development Board.

Want to learn more about living in Jackson? Check out the latest edition of Livability Jackson, Tennessee.

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