Thursday, January 27, 2005

Jobs Summit to match education with industry

Staff Writer

In an effort to stimulate job growth and business enterprise, Marshall County strategic planners will put on a Jobs Summit in April.

Planners hope the summit may spawn economic growth and development in the county and improve the quality of life for residents. The Jobs Summit is a joint project of the industry and education committees.

Although several committee members were in favor of emphasizing vocational technology as a way to growth, Don Randolph, superintendent of county schools, said the vo-tech program funding was cut last year at the state level and could be trimmed again this year.

Byhalia alderman and member of the board of trustees at Northwest Community College Bill Dawson suggested that the governor could request more for workforce development this year since he took a strong interest in it last year.

“I still don’t understand tech prep assistance for folks to get into technology and where we are headed,” he said.

Facilitator Jack Russell said Marshall County still has too many people not graduating from high school and not many graduates are attending college.

“You need basically everything, right?” he said. “You’ve got three groups you need to deal with in some way. Are the employers getting what they need? Are the high schools and colleges producing the product you need? Are the adults and students taking advantage of what is available?

“Basically, you are talking about how we are addressing all three.”

“I think technology is where we are lagging big time, not just in Byhalia,” Dawson said.

Randolph recommended both jobs and education be topics at the summit.

Joe Haynes, executive director of Jobs For Mississippi Graduates Inc., presented an overview of how low achievers can be motivated. He said educators have missed the mark in helping prepare at risk children for success. Part of that failure is due to social change that has resulted in students not being taught the basics, he said.

Students are not being taught the importance of courtesy, being on time and how to dress for success, he said.

“We’ve been so engrossed in testing,” he said. “Many times these kids are smart but not available to live in the world we live in.”

He said the basic problem in education is too many dropouts, too many unmotivated students, and too little parental support.

“Kids doing well, will do well, anyway,” he said. “But those who do not are the ones who need help.”

The program is now in 33 schools in Mississippi and in 30 states, he said.

The drop-out rate in Mississippi is 45 percent. Haynes said the program is a preventive measure against dropping out.

The program hires one caring teacher to work with 45 students in groups of 15. It is offered to students in grades 9-12 at a cost of $50,000, with the Jobs matching 50:50 with the school district.

Russell suggested the following issues be discussed at the summit:

  • industry would discuss their workforce issues, what they want educators to do, and the future industries leaders expect to come to the area.
  • educators will discuss what they are doing in job training, family support and other issues they face.
  • students would be asked what issues they face and what they need to transition from school to work.
  • and existing industries and business would be asked to provide job descriptions available, pay scale in the current market and career opportunities in the area for students to peruse.

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