January 23, 2019 10:34:05 AM
"How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Parre?"
Those lyrics to a song written after the end of World War I, still resonate today in Mississippi, where Millennials are leaving for better opportunities in other places at a higher rate than any other state in the country.
It is a vexing problem because it means our state is losing its best educated young people to other states where there are better-paying jobs.
And in a state that is third lowest in the percent of the population who have a high school diploma, fifth lowest in those with a college degree and fourth lowest in those with a graduate/professional degree, the losses of our brightest and best are particularly critical.
Against that backdrop, we find a glimmer of hope and, perhaps, one of the resources that may play a role in ending that exodus.
Saturday, the Golden Triangle Coding Academy celebrated its first graduation class. Nine students completed the 11-month program administered by Mississippi State University. GTCA, along with another program in Jackson, are two programs offering training and coding practices in order to fill technical positions in Mississippi.
Of those nine students, six have already landed jobs at an average pay of $37,000 annually. In a state that has the highest per capita of minimum-wage earners, that's a significant salary, especially among those who do not hold a college degree.
That small number of graduates does not diminish the potential of what is at work here.
For too long, our educational process has been devoted to a one-size fits all approach. GTCA is one example of how our state can explore other options by turning our thinking about education on its head.
Until recently, the idea was to produce high school and college graduates and try to match what they had learned to the jobs available. Now we are starting with the job skills that are in demand and building educational programs to provide those skills.
Career tech programs are evolving from the staples of auto mechanics and construction to the vast array of careers that demand specific skills. We are seeing the growth of entrepreneur programs that encourage and support those who want to build their own businesses right here in Mississippi.
It is true that our state must continue in its efforts to improve and build on our traditional high school and college programs. But it also must be flexible enough to prepare our kids for the ever-increasing diversity of today's job market. To fail to do so will only mean further decline.
The Golden Triangle Coding Academy is one example of this more enlightened approach to education and jobs.
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