Shortly after Toyota announced it would build cars in Northeast Mississippi, the automaker said it would create a $50 million endowment to enhance education in Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties. The CREATE Foundation oversees the fund, which is administered by an advisory committee. Daily Journal’s Chris Kieffer spoke with CREATE Senior Consultant Charles Garrett about the latest initiatives funded by the endowment.
Q: The Toyota Wellspring Education Fund provided its first class this semester, with the Web app entrepreneurship class taught by Mississippi State University professors. How did that go and how are the classes planned for next fall shaping up?
A: The class was a tremendous success. Students not only learned how to program a working Web app, they also learned about market research, entrepreneurship, marketing and the challenges of working on a team. The students were surprised by what they could actually accomplish. This class definitely helped them gain a new perspective on future careers.
Registration for a Survey of Healthcare Careers class, offered by Northeast Mississippi Community College, Introduction to Aviation, offered by Hinds Community College and Robotics in Advanced Manufacturing offered by Itawamba Community College is underway.
Q: The endowment also paid for students to attend some summer camps last year. Will it be doing that again this summer?
A: Yes. The Toyota Wellspring Education Fund, through the CREATE Foundation, is sponsoring tuition for public middle and high school students for a variety of academic summer camps. Mississippi State University, Itawamba Community College and Northeast Mississippi Community College are offering the camps. Topics range from advanced manufacturing to robotics, stage production, conservation and landscape architecture.
Q: What do you hope to get from MDC Inc. of Durham, N.C., studying ways to better align the workforce and education system?
A: The vision of this effort is to align educational completion with opportunities in the workforce. Too often, when students complete their education, they do not have good access to a career that pays a living wage. Completion of high school, community college and higher education is a significant accomplishment. However, too many students do not attain degrees that align easily with jobs in today’s market. This effort will bring the leaders of K-12 education together with community college and higher education leaders to meet with the leadership of the major employers of the area to look for solutions to helping graduates become more ready to enjoy a career that fully utilizes their talents and abilities.