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Jackson County leaders hear about new workforce development program

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 5:36 PM CDT
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Representatives from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Foundation and the United Way of Jackson and George Counties all visited the Board of Supervisors meeting to unveil more details about P3: PASSION. PURPOSE. PAYCHECK.

The program stems from Gov. Tate Reeves’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which is part of the CARES Act. It’s a workforce development program that provides seven career coaches for each of the Jackson County high schools. The coaches help students find their passions in life and what career options are available to them while tracking everything through the MERIT app.

“The way we are going in the future is credentialing apps,” Deputy Director of Jackson County Economic Development Foundation Mary Martha Henson said.

The program also features videos of people that work in various fields across Jackson County, some of which even attended Jackson County schools.

“They are the best storytellers about what’s available in this community,” Henson said.

The three-pronged approach is something a lot of other Mississippi counties don’t have and aren’t doing right now.

“We are always looking at Jackson County for new and innovative ways,” Henson said.

The overall goal for this program is to make sure students have a plan for after high school, whether that be to enroll for further education or something else.

“We need to have students target a career, and we need them to target a job,” President & CEO of Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Paige Roberts said.

Organizers hope the program makes students more educated and comfortable with their decisions after high school whether they’re employed, enlisted or enrolled.

“They can follow whatever pathway it takes to get to that paycheck so that they have sustainable wages and they can enjoy a certain quality of life,” Roberts said.

Leaders also hope it gives students a better idea of the many jobs right in their backyards.

“We are the most industrialized county in the state and we are about work,” Roberts said.

The program has $675,000 for this school year, and organizers are looking for more funds and grants to continue P3 for years to come.

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