The career coach program aims to connect, prepare high school students with Mississippi’s most in demand careers.

On Wednesday, Accelerate MS announced an $8 million investment in Mississippi high schools  to support a significant expansion of the career coach program in public high schools in the state.

The program, created through House Bill 1388 and funded through House Bill 1517 of the 2022 Legislative Session, aims to connect and prepare high school students with Mississippi’s most in demand careers.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of no more than 250 students for every school counselor. During the 2020-2021 academic year, Mississippi’s student-to-counselor ratio was 398-to-1.

As a result of this project in addition to others, Mississippi’s career coach program is increasing by 500% from 25 coaches to approximately 150 coaches throughout the state.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said that through the work of local leaders in Northeast Mississippi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mississippi has built a career coaching model that is transforming the future for students in the K-12 system.

“This dramatic expansion is a direct investment in the future of thousands of Mississippi students and will impact our state for decades to come,” Governor Reeves continued.

AccelerateMS Executive Director Ryan Miller said they believe that access to one-on-one career coaching will open the eyes of Mississippi high school students to the kinds of high-tech, high-skill jobs available, in the state.

“We’ve seen this model create positive impact in communities across the state and believe that – with support from elected officials and members of business and industry – this program will continue to take that impact and grow it exponentially,” Miller added.

According to a release from their office, Accelerate MS career coaches will be embedded in schools and school districts and will not be local school or district employees.

“Career coaches will report to Accelerate MS and will focus solely on interacting with students to improve outcomes in the planning and pursuit of careers,” the release continued. “Career Coaches will be in classrooms beginning this Fall, pending hire through the subgrantees.”

Pending finalization of subgrant agreements and proof of procurement compliance in hiring coaches, money will be awarded to seven grantee organizations, which are slated to hire and deploy career coaches to approximately 125 schools covering 75 school districts in 51 Mississippi counties.

The seven grantee organizations include: Central Mississippi Planning and Development District; Economic Development Authority of Jones County; North Central Planning and Development District; Simpson County Development Foundation; South Delta Planning and Development District; South Mississippi Planning and Development District; and Three Rivers Planning and Development District.

Accelerate MS Program Manager Lori Nail said that for some students, their high school counselor is the single point of access for conversations around career plans after high school.

“Mississippi counselors have extremely full plates and are often unable to provide extensive one-on-one career counseling support as desired,” Nail stated. “Through this program, we are hoping to increase capacity for the kind of robust career planning supports students need.”