More of Mississippi’s Top Students Pursuing Career and Technical Education

Professional trades provide financial stability, opportunities for advancement

PEARL ― The start of fall classes in Mississippi finds increased interest among the state’s top high school students in career and technical education, and the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation is doing its part to raise awareness about the professional success these pathways can bring.

“Today’s career and technical education programs are light years beyond what we used to call shop class back in the day,” said Mike Barkett, president of MCEF. “These professions are being profoundly transformed by the computer age. Students must be able to quickly grasp new technologies and master multiple and complex skill sets. The coursework is challenging and requires academic rigor as well as critical-thinking skills.

“By no means are these programs a last resort for students who can’t excel in traditional, four-year degree programs,” he said. “To the contrary, they’re the first choice for students who are serious about their futures and want rewarding careers with opportunities for advancement.”

Barkett pointed out that an ever-expanding body of research proves that career and technical education is making a dramatically positive impact on student outcomes, and that the earnings potential for these graduates is competitive with many four-year degree programs.

A study released recently by Mississippi State University’s Research and Curriculum Unit confirms that career and technical education students have higher graduation rates and are more likely to be involved and stay engaged in their coursework. These students had a four-year graduation rate of 83.9 percent, compared to 75.5 percent for Mississippi high schoolers overall.

MCEF partners with the Mississippi Department of Education to deliver craft training programs to 5,000 high school students enrolled in more than 100 career and technical education centers across Mississippi. Programs include carpentry, electrical, HVAC, masonry, sheet metal, industrial maintenance, construction trades and welding.

Barkett noted that many students who graduate from MCEF programs go on to complete four-year degrees in fields such as engineering and architecture. Others are interested in starting careers directly after high school, and thanks to the variety of training programs now offered in Mississippi, 21 percent of high school graduates successfully transitioned to careers last year.

MCEF also has articulation agreements with 15 community colleges that enable graduates of the organization’s four-year apprentice program to receive up to 32 academic hours. The craft training programs have an 80 percent graduation rate, while apprenticeship programs have a graduation rate of 100 percent.

“MCEF continues to play an important role in equipping Mississippi’s aspiring trade professionals with the training and resources required to achieve their dreams,” Barkett said. “Consequently, these students are also helping ensure that Mississippi has a highly skilled workforce to support the state’s growing construction and manufacturing industries.”

The mission of the non-profit MCEF is to promote careers, recruit capable individuals and train a quality workforce for the construction and manufacturing industries in the state of Mississippi. MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades. Learn more at

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