VWSD to offer job training for parents

Published 9:06 am Thursday, June 8, 2017

Parents of Vicksburg Warren School District students will soon have the chance to participate in a workforce development course offered by the VWSD and based upon the Leader in Me curriculum and VWSD career academies.

Through a partnership with the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the USDA, parents will have the opportunity to participate in the 15-month course starting in the fall.

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“The whole purpose of this is to provide the absolute single best workforce, the single best-educated group of people in the United States,” VWSD superintendent Chad Shealy said. “We are starting with our city and we are investing in that.”

The course is open to unemployed parents of VWSD enrolled children currently receiving SNAP benefits and those parents’ children between the ages of 16 and 21. The course will be offered four nights a week and run in 10-week intervals for 15 months.

The goal is to help parents identify areas they are interested in, the career opportunities that align with those interests and what education and certifications they would need to pursue them.

“They will go through a 15-month program where they will explore our career academies,” Lucy Derossette, the VWSD’s Director of Innovations, said. “They will do some financial literacy, some Leader in Me and then go into an internship in the area they are interested in. Then, we will align them Hinds and Alcorn to continue their education.”

The program will start with a keystone class based upon the 16 Career Clusters. The students will then participate in one of the three career academies, which are the same as those being offered to high school students during the school day.

The three academies are the architecture, construction, mechatronics and engineering lab, the communication, arts and business lab and the health and human services lab.

After participating in the career academies, students will have the chance to participate in internships in the career that they chose.

The goal at the end of the 15-month program is for each student to be employed full time, enrolled at Hinds in courses to receive a necessary certificate or two-year degree or enrolled at Alcorn State pursuing a four-year degree.

“What we’re trying to do is not only increase the performance of our students, but help the parents of our students to get to a point where they are financially stable, and to get them to financial security and employment within our community,” Shealy said. “Then, that helps the student perform in school.”

Shealy said that the research consistently shows that the more stable the home life of a student is, the better they perform in school.

“When you talk about the stressors of poverty or unemployment and how that affects a child that can’t be fixed at school,” Shealy said. “Our focus then talked about the family and the family structure. What can we do to help with that? This is our approach.”

The program will be paid for in part for through a 50 percent reimbursement grant provided by the USDA’s workforce development program and dispersed through the Department of Human Services. The equipment purchased through the grant will also be available for use by high school students participating in the career academies.

“For so long, we’ve been looking at education as everybody can go to college,” Jean Massey, the Director of Secondary Education for the Mississippi Department of Education, said. “Everybody can go to college, but is a four-year college right for everybody? We’ve got to find what’s right for our students. We have to give them the education to expand and go where they want to.”

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and Economic Development Director Pablo Diaz both applauded the ability for this program to increase the available workforce in Vicksburg.

“This is really going outside and doing something creative and innovative, not only for out community, but really for the state of Mississippi, and to set an example for the entire nation,” Diaz said.

Parents who are interested in participating in program will have to apply and have their applications approved by the Department of Human Services.