Guest Column: Energy Academy Pathway at Vicksburg Warren School District

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 20, 2021

By Dr. Terence James | Career and Technical Administrator, Career and Technical Center at Hinds Community College and Vicksburg Warren School District

Four years ago, the Vicksburg Warren School District began radically transforming its high schools to college and career academies.

Academies are designed to ignite students’ passion for lifelong learning and to provide interesting, relevant and meaningful education. Each student, in choosing an academy, begins aligning their learning with their vision for their career after graduation. 

This column focuses on one career pathway in the Architecture, Construction, Mechatronics & Engineering Academy — the Energy Academy Pathway. This is the second year for this important pathway and it has been made possible by a partnership with Entergy, Hinds Community College and the Mississippi Development Authority. These partners have been instrumental in funding the industry as well as providing hands-on learning, industry visits and internship opportunities. 

Anyone who has flipped on a light in the middle of the night or walked into the coolness of an air-conditioned space on a hot Mississippi summer afternoon understands the importance of energy. The ongoing need for more energy has created a powerful demand for trained professionals in the ever-growing field of energy. Better yet, energy sector careers are among the highest paying anywhere and range from $40,000 to $100,000 annually according to The Skills Foundation of Mississippi. 

There are opportunities for rewarding careers right in our backyard. Entergy’s Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station in Claiborne county provides hundreds of jobs to Warren County residents and Entergy Mississippi hires individuals throughout the state for jobs ranging from linemen and skilled technicians to refinery and utility operators to electrical, civil and mechanical engineers. Some of these high-paying and steady positions require an advanced degree, while technical education classes during high school can ready people to be successful in others. 

The Vicksburg Warren College and Career Academies prepare students who express an interest in a career in the energy field through the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. Last year, Hinds Community College’s Energy instructor, James Ross, taught these students how to read a voltmeter, run 3D printers, use power and hand tools and utilize CAD programming. Students can also participate in Caitlin O’Brien’s FAB lab. This lab is free to students and the public and introduces laser engraving equipment, a CNC router, vinyl cutter and more to help gain the skills they need to be successful in the field of energy. This summer, O’Brien reached an even younger audience by teaching energy concepts during the summer manufacturing camp. 

The district’s vision for each of its graduates goes well beyond walking across the stage at the end of their senior year in high school. The VWSD is committed to creating graduates who are prepared for college, career and life and encourages students and their families to explore the possibilities that CTE offers, especially in the area of Energy Careers. The District is changing the trajectory of its graduates and wants you to consider the opportunities that are available. For more information, please contact Dr. Prentiss McLin at (601)638-3813 ext. 154 or via email at prentiss.mclin@vwsd.org. You may also visit the District’s website at www.vwsd.org/cte