Expo seeks to bridge a career gap for students
DeSoto County high school sophomores are spending some time this week learning about careers in a unique way.
Called “Bridging the Gap – DeSoto County Career Expo,” students are taken to the Landers Center in Southaven where they are allowed to roam the floor, talking with businesses in career technical fields. But they’re not just talking. Students can jump inside a Northwest Community College semi trailer truck cab, get a feel for some machinery, and learn everything from what paramedics do to automotive sales, health sciences and insurance, all careers that don’t necessarily need a four-year college degree.
“This is an opportunity for students to explore different career opportunities that they otherwise might not be aware of,” said DeSoto County Economic Development Council’s Bryant Henley.
Starting Tuesday morning into the afternoon and continuing Wednesday, sophomores from the eight DCS high schools visit with representatives. Henley said the hands-on part of the expo is what makes this different from other career events.
“The hands-on component is important because it gives them experience in what they would be doing in the field of work that they would be interested in,” Henley said. “We want to be able to build that awareness to some different career pathways and fields.”
But letting the students mess around with equipment or learn about working with power lines is not where this week’s experiences will end, Henley said.
“We want to be intentional and follow up with them in the 11th and 12th grade and bring in some of those companies in that career field that they are interested in,” Henley said. “Get them into the high schools and meet with students, give presentations and hopefully offer field trips and tours of our business and industry.”
Another part of the follow up comes through AccelerateMS, which is helping fund career coaches in each of the eight district high schools. The program, created and funded with action in the 2022 Legislature, will offer access to one-on-one career coaching to the kinds of high-tech, high-skill jobs available.
“Career coaches will be instrumental to this effort of bridging the gap,” Henley said.
Another message that the expo is meant to send is that students graduating from high school don’t have to go straight to college. In fact, they can be working a good-paying job and having postsecondary education paid for.
“There’s good jobs right out of high school and many of our companies in DeSoto County will pay that tuition reimbursement to Northwest Community College and get a skilled associate’s degree,” Henley said. “Those two-year credits will transfer toward bachelor’s degrees working while also getting their education.”