JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi is one of three states that will share a $1.5 million grant to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and manufacturing careers. The three-year long project is designed to engage students underrepresented in STEM and manufacturing, with a long-term goal of higher graduation rates and a more educated, skilled, diverse, and motivated workforce.

Mississippi students are among thousands of students selected for the program, which includes schools in urban New York City and rural Kentucky. Three organizations – The National Dropout Prevention Network, WIN Learning, and LightSwitch Learning – are supporting the project.

“One of the Mississippi Board of Education’s goals is ensuring every student graduates high school and is ready for college and a career, and this program fits perfectly into that goal. We greatly appreciate Toyota USA Foundation’s commitment to providing career and educational opportunities to our students,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

The schools will use an online, Web-based career exploration and discovery of pathways system. The program will develop students’ college and career readiness skills and will assist students in obtaining certificates. Content, aligned with the 16 nationally recognized career clusters and other standards, will focus on manufacturing-related careers and STEM.

The program responds to a national crisis of under-skilled workers and mismatched skills between workers and 21st century workplaces. Strategies to increase graduation rates will also be a focus.

Jean Massey, executive director of secondary education at the Mississippi Department of Education, said student participants will benefit from skills development, nationally recognized credentials and development of career plans. Teachers also will feel empowered to better understand real-world applications of what they teach, to serve as career mentors, to use educational technology, and to continue in those roles after the project.