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Grant to help high schoolers learn work skills


Dispatch Staff Report



Sixteen to 20 Columbus High School juniors will receive the chance to learn work skills and get college credit while in high school -- and get paid to do it -- thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation. 


The Technology Initiative in Manufacturing and Engineering grant will provide approximately $150,000 each to East Mississippi Community College and Itawamba Community College each year for three years. 


The money will teach students from Columbus Municipal School District or Pontotoc City School District manufacturing skills at EMCC or ICC, respectively, while training teachers from each district to take over the manufacturing course after a year. Each community college will partner with another school district after the first year. 


A group of students from CHS began their assessments last Monday to qualify for the program, said Dr. Raj Shaunak, vice president of workforce and community services at EMCC. The grant calls for at least 16 students to be admitted, but Shaunak said EMCC may enroll more. 


The chosen students will attend advanced manufacturing skills classes at EMCC-Mayhew twice a week after school starting in the spring semester. They''ll take a college-level manufacturing course during the summer while simultaneously serving as interns with local industries. Shaunak reports all the industries at the Golden Triangle industrial complex are on board. 


The students will continue with more manufacturing skills during the fall semester of their senior years in high school.  


While enrolled in the program, each student will receive a $200 stipend during the summer and another when they complete the program in the fall. They''ll also be allowed to take one free college course via dual enrollment during their senior years. 


At the same time students are learning from the manufacturing skills class, teachers and counselors will be learning to implement and teach the course on a high school level. 


"We want to pilot it for a year through this grant and grow these teachers and have this as an ongoing thing in the future," said Shaunak. 


The purpose behind the program is to increase the relevant skills of Mississippi''s workforce. Skills will include precision measurement, lean manufacturing, problem solving and teamwork. Students will also be tasked with performing work-skill simulations and presenting reports on what they''ve learned. 


Shaunak says the goal of getting the programs rooted in local school districts is to educate students as young as sixth or seventh grade to employment opportunities. 


The grant will give Columbus students a valuable glimpse of what will be required in the workforce of the future, said CMSD Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips. 


"This opportunity will increase our students'' interest in math and science careers and provide pathways to highly technical career fields. TIME will allow our students to test drive the workforce and provide additional training for secondary math, science, and technology teachers," said Phillips. 


The TIME grant was obtained through a collaboration between Mississippi State University''s Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology, the two community colleges, and the two school districts.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment sd commented at 12/22/2009 11:43:00 AM:

What a great opportunity! Not everyone is meant for traditional college, and I am glad that these students get the chance to learn a skill/skills that can be used in their futures. Too many students are only given two options: Get on the traditional college track or get dropped by the wayside. High schools are ignoring the fact that there are still good jobs out there for trained, skilled workers and are not really preparing students for those types of jobs. I hope that Columbus schools get more of grants like this one and that more and more kids get this kind of opportunity.


Article Comment Dontbefooled commented at 12/22/2009 3:20:00 PM:

Guess what, the students that they choose to paritipate are the students that will go to collge. The IB students and honor roll students. This program was not opened to the students that will most not likely go to college.


Article Comment TD commented at 12/22/2009 5:03:00 PM:

OK - what am I missing here? Someone please tell me. We have students at CHS that need to learn work skills???????

I thought my tax dollars was going to educate and teach youngsters ages 5-17 to LEARN and be prepared to step into the real world upon graduation and become productive members of society.

But I guess that's the difference between going to HS in back in the dark ages when we held students and teachers accountable -- when parents challenged children to excel -- when parents and teachers were on the same team.

Back then kids graduated high school could actually read and write.


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