Prepare students for workforce via MEC program

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In Tuesday’s paper we reported about an education program developed by the Mississippi Economic Council. The program aims to prepare high school students for higher education or technical and vocational careers by requiring participating students to take certain courses already offered by local high schools. The course load focuses on math, science and/or technical and vocational courses.

The program is voluntary and free to participating high schools—aside from some time requirements. To date, none of our three school districts participate in the MEC program, but we hope their leaders will consider the program. We don’t expect this program to produce any drastic changes in the readiness of our future workforce—after all, the curriculum and classes are already offered—but it is possible a few students will buy into the program and take more science or math courses than they otherwise would have.

Our schools offer a good variety of courses and some freshmen may be in a poor position at the age of 14 to understand what courses could best benefit them, so a set of predetermined courses with a clear aim—improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) understanding or gaining skills in vocational areas—may help some students who would not otherwise sign up for biology or chemistry.

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To put this another way, we can’t expect this program to transform our students in four years, but it can’t hurt, either and may help students find a career path. Ideally, the MEC will lobby for two-year colleges and four-year universities to officially recognize the program and give extra consideration to applicants who have graduated the MEC program. Such an incentive could only benefit participation.

Finally, if the school districts do partner with MEC, we hope the community at-large will get behind the program and lend a hand.

The program depends on business leaders to speak to students and on students performing community service work. We understand that some community organizations offer small scholarships to graduates of the program, so it would be nice if a different civic organization would adopt each district that participates and pledge to offer small scholarships to all graduates.

These days, with tuition rising at all four-year state institutions, even getting a scholarship for the cost of textbooks can be a big help.