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Innovative Career Coach Program Sees Growth in Second Year


JACKSON, MS — More career coaches will be engaging with Mississippi high school students this fall to help them discover successful paths into the workforce.

The State of Mississippi has revved up its efforts to connect students with industry leaders with over 50 new coaches throughout the state, increasing the total for the 2023-2024 academic year to 185 from just 20 coaches two years ago. In all, coaches will be deployed in 78% of public high schools and 79% of the public school districts across the state.

“We believe that access to one-on-one career coaching opens the eyes of Mississippi high school students to the kinds of high-tech, high-skill jobs available right here at home,” said Ryan Miller, executive director of AccelerateMS. “We’ve seen this model create a positive impact in communities and believe that – with continued support from elected officials and members of business and industry – this program will shepherd thousands of students toward better career pathways and be a driver for economic growth across our state. The potential impact of this program can reach every corner of Mississippi, from the most rural towns and cities to inner-city schools alike.”

The statewide initiative was funded in the 2022 legislative session with $8 million from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) through House Bill 1388. In October, more than 100 coaches were hired and an additional $12 million of state general funds was appropriated in 2023 to help continue the growth of the program.

Through the coordination of AccelerateMS, grants were awarded this year to six local regional development organizations to recruit, hire, and place coaches in school districts located within their geographic areas.

Working for these organizations focused on community growth and prosperity, the coaches serve the role of critical link between educators, students, and employers who have quality occupational opportunities for Mississippians.

“The addition of career coaches to our county created immediate excitement for our business and industry and served as a shot in the arm to our K-12 institutions,” stated Ross Tucker, President of the Economic Development Authority of Jones County. “Jones County students can have confidence in the fact that they have coaches ready and able to equip them with information about career options and help them navigate their future after high school.”

By the end of the 2022-2023 school year, additional metrics included 4,389 interactions with students to assess aptitudes and clarify majors; 7,162 group interactions; 4,108 parent conversations; 2,905 college applications; 1,741 job applications; 2001 guest speakers; and 1,057 field trips.  The coaches also had 25,814 one-on-one conversations with students about their postsecondary plans.

“The growth of career coaches in Mississippi is significant and we are closer than ever to having a career coach in every school in Mississippi,” said Program Manager Lori Nail. “These coaches bridge the gap between businesses and schools and show that the state is committed to supporting students in a very strategic way to ensure they have opportunities to thrive in Mississippi.”

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.