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Mississippi career education: focus on manufacturing

About 50 defense-related manufacturers, 350 plastics and polymer companies and 100 chemical-makers have set up shop in Mississippi. Large production facilities for automotive giants Nissan and Toyota, as well as a myriad of automotive parts makers are there.

Colleges and Universitiesin Mississippi

Much of this local manufacturing boom has occurred since the turn of the 21st century. Since then, higher education institutions have become increasingly important for residents of and businesses in the "Magnolia State."

With only three million residents in this largely rural state, companies large and small collaborate closely with Mississippi colleges, universities, community colleges, trade schools and other post-secondary institutions to prepare workers for such technical and manufacturing careers. As a result, about 15 percent of all state workers are employed in manufacturing, according to the Mississippi Development Authority.

Mississippi colleges partner with employers

An interesting phenomenon in this Deep South state, bordering the country's most famous river: The number of automotive, defense and plastics manufacturers that have relocated and created educational partnerships in the interest of industry.

  • Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the University of Mississippi-Oxford: A partnership between the state government, the University of Mississippi and Toyota, the center confers degrees in engineering with an emphasis in manufacturing. Through the CME, the schools of engineering, business administration and accountancy, and the college of liberal arts at "Ole Miss" students can pursue a well-rounded education that includes foundational knowledge in accounting, communications, human resources, leadership, management and marketing.
  • Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) at Mississippi State University, Starkville: Established in 2001, CAVS was meant to "Provide a distinctive, interdisciplinary environment wherein next-generation engineers and scientists train alongside field experts to investigate, design and verify novel solutions in materials, propulsion and design for efficient human and vehicle mobility," according to the Missippi State University website.
  • Schools of Polymer Research and High Performance Materials (SHPM): From Hybrid Plastics to plastic helmets, major technology companies and high-tech sporting goods manufacturers are benefiting from this University of Southern Mississippi chemical research facility, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs in polymer science and engineering. The school specializes in the manufacture of sports and high performance materials, which are "specifically for the needs of athletes and military personnel," according to the SHPM website.

Additionally, defense companies including Northrop Grumman, which builds naval ships and commercial vessels, employ more than 21,000 people in the state. Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems, located on the Gulf Coast, is the state's largest private employer with more than 11,700 employees, many of whom work in defense-related manufacturing jobs.

Community colleges crucial in preparing workforce

While the state's large universities have many partnerships with large employers, community colleges also play an important role in state residents' career education. According to an August 2011 article in the magazine Chief Learning Officer, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security recently received a federal grant of $20 million per year to train workers in learning the skills necessary for changing jobs in the new economy. If there was ever a good time to get more education in the Magnolia State, that time is now.

Author: Mary Butler has been a writer and editor for more than a decade. She is currently studying to be a secondary English teacher at the University of Colorado, where she has taught writing and rhetoric and recently completed a master's degree in Communication.

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