OUR OPINION: Career tracks need more and sharper persuasion

Toyota’s investment in the PUL Alliance counties (Pontotoc, Union and Lee) with a sprawling auto assembly plant drives home the need for constantly changing and improving career education initiatives and encouragement in public schools whose evolving excellence is the goal of a $50 million gift called The Toyota Endowment.

Making the most of the endowment has been in the background of meetings this week in all three counties to hear findings from MDC Inc., a North Carolina nonprofit whose mission is helping people make the most of educational opportunities.

MDC, originally known as the Manpower Development Corporation, says it “has helped organizations and communities close the gaps that separate people from opportunity.”

Its reputation sustains its claims.

Its work for the PUL Alliance and its schools has identified reasonably good performance but with fragmentation in how the “clients” within PUL approach career education. A unified approach, even in the diversity of different schools, seems likely to amplify good results.

The MDC examination also identified what could be called inadequate marketing of the product.

Every student is concerned to some degree with his or her individual future happiness and prosperity, but it generally is the nature of adolescence to be less-than-fully focused on the long-term future.

Early identification of students whose interests and record suggest a workforce future rather than a baccalaureate degree still have to be persuaded with the most positive kind of promotion to fully prepare themselves for the top-paying jobs in industry and manufacturing.

Some of the best manufacturing and industrial jobs in Northeast Mississippi offer salaries and wages higher than many positions requiring a degree. However, perceptions sometimes overwhelm facts, so more convincing presentation of facts about the workplace and compensation might resolve some of the problems.

Certification often can be the distinctive that pushes prospects forward.

A 2010 report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University estimates that 63 percent of all job openings over the next four years will require post-secondary education or training.

Raising aspirations also involves cultivating a will to succeed in careers even with options not previously so boldly presented.

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