Program highlights rewarding careers to meet demands of growing industries
JACKSON, MS — With the foundation for its career coaching initiative in place, Accelerate Mississippi (AccelerateMS) is revving up its efforts to connect individuals with transformative, high-paying careers.
“By 2030, Mississippi will need more than 100,000 qualified workers to meet the demands of growing industries such as healthcare, agriculture, transportation, and information technology,” said Ryan Miller, executive director of AccelerateMS. “We aim to meet those needs by helping students make career choices that align with their aptitudes and interests.”
Modeled after similar programs that have achieved success in northeast Mississippi and on the Gulf Coast, the statewide career coaching initiative began gaining momentum shortly after being funded by the State Legislature during the 2022 session with $8 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Under the direction of AccelerateMS, grants were awarded to seven regional development organizations to recruit, hire, and place coaches in school districts located in their geographic areas, which comprise 51 counties and 125 schools.
In October, more than 100 coaches were deployed to school districts around the state with plans to fill 18 more positions in early 2023. In the first five weeks of the program, coaches logged 5,000 one-on-one career conversations with students.
“That’s an impressive number, especially considering that many students had never had such discussions about how to best connect with diverse local career opportunities,” said Program Manager Lori Nail. “This program is very data-driven—we want to know the impact of the program and demonstrate to our community stakeholders that it’s a smart investment for the future.”
By the end of 2022, additional metrics included 4,389 interactions with students to assess aptitudes and clarify majors; 2,254 group interactions; 814 parent conversations; 861 college applications; 126 job applications; 452 guest speakers; and 261 field trips.
Looking ahead, AccelerateMS and its coalition of grantee organizations are preparing to expand the coaching model and focusing on how to further enhance reporting of outcomes and continually support coaches to ensure student success.
In addition to data reporting and tracking, steps are being taken to raise awareness through strategies such as an expanded social media presence, stronger relationships with business and industry recruiters, and enhanced student understanding of education pathways and diploma endorsements that meet Mississippi Department of Education requirements and align with postsecondary training as well as business and industry demand.
“We are helping more students than ever map their way to rewarding career opportunities in Mississippi with the help of specially-trained career coaches,” Miller said. “Students will have more options along with a great head start on landing jobs that are in high demand. By the time they graduate, they will have a solid foundation to start a career, go to college, or do both.”
AccelerateMS serves the people and businesses of Mississippi by developing and deploying workforce strategies to connect individuals with transformative, high-paying careers. By leveraging resources and partnering with organizations that hold complementary missions, AccelerateMS effectuates positive change, creating sustained individual, community and statewide economic prosperity.