Learning the ropes: HCC, VWSD partnering to provide intern opportunities

Published 11:10 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

As graduation looms only months away for college and high school students alike, institutions in Warren County are working on both levels to ensure students are learning the skills they will need to be successful in the workforce.

Terence James, director of career and technical education at Hinds Community College, said new avenues for work in Warren County dictate that schools prepare their students for expanding local opportunities.  

“With the recent announcement of a port expansion to take place in Vicksburg, along with last year’s  deployment of career coaches to assist with workforce development, now is a great time to prepare and invest in our youth for upcoming job opportunities,” James said. “The career coach program was implemented throughout the state of Mississippi to assist youth with identifying the career path of their choice. While the Vicksburg Warren School District (VWSD), through the Vicksburg Warren College and Career Academies, already had a structure to help support students with identifying what they want to do in the future, the career coach program is an extra layer of support for students within the VWSD.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

James said programs inside each of Warren County’s public high schools are already dedicated to achieving those goals.

“Alexandria Burrell is the career coach at Warren Central High School, while Monica Watson is the career coach at Vicksburg High School,” he said. “These career coaches have done an excellent job since they began in January 2023. Setting up career fairs, college and industry visits are common tasks of these career coaches. They meet with students one-on-one to discuss career opportunities and pathways for students to take to get them to the next level.  They meet with students to assist with college applications, scholarships and more.”

Of all the work being done to prepare students for career opportunities, James said one facet of that task holds extra importance in his mind.

“In my opinion, one of the most important tasks that they have accomplished this school year is setting up internship opportunities for students with local businesses,” he said. “Career coaches have contacted local businesses to assist with preparing students for their career path.  Students have the opportunity through internships to gain firsthand experience in their career path. This experience helps students to determine if they are truly interested in their chosen career path, as well as help them gain valuable experience.”

And James said the benefits of the program extend beyond students making a foray into the workforce and reach to the employers themselves.

“Not only is it beneficial for the students, it’s also beneficial for participating employers. Employers get to work side-by-side with students to shape and mold them to potentially become an employee. This is a great opportunity for employers to determine if they want to offer a student a job opportunity after high school graduation. Another benefit to employers is that, through American Rescue Plan Act funding, they don’t have to pay the students. This applies to the manufacturing, healthcare, energy, information technology, agribusiness, and transportation and logistics industries.”

James said, already, there are many businesses in the community that have taken advantage of this opportunity, including Batesville Company, Merit Health River Region, Cannon Honda, Positive Pathway, RiverBend Eyecare, Entergy, Grand Gulf, Newbreak Communication, Blackburn Motor Company, Vicksburg Medical Associates, MSU Extension, VWSD Communication Department, and VWSD Technology Department.

“(They all) have taken advantage of this internship opportunity and can speak on the success of internships through the career coach program,” he said. “Special thanks to these employers for investing in our community’s most valuable asset, our children. Also, another special thanks to Lucy DeRossette through Keller Williams who paid her intern.I encourage employers to plan for the future and join the fight to help prepare our future workforce by opening your doors to internship opportunities as well as other initiatives that the VWSD implements to assist with workforce development.” 

For more information on the program, James said employers may  reach out to Burrell (alexandria.burrell@vwsd.org) and Watson (mwatson@vwsd.org).