Craft professions have been experiencing a renaissance in Mississippi and across the U.S., driven primarily by continued growth in the construction industry. Raising awareness of these career opportunities is a big part of what we do at the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation.

More Mississippi students than ever are mapping their way to future success by enrolling in career and technical education programs in high school. That’s great news for Mississippi and our state’s construction industry. By the time these students graduate, they have a solid foundation to start a career, go to college, or do both. CTE gives them more options along with a great head start on landing jobs that are in high demand.

In October, we’re celebrating National Careers in Construction Month. Spearheaded by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and declared by Gov. Phil Bryant as an official, month-long observance in Mississippi, the annual initiative includes a broad range of partners aggressively working to ensure that the state’s need for more craft professionals is met by qualified Mississippians.

An example is the Career Opportunity & Industry Network, a free service at COIN allows high school seniors and community college students who have completed training programs to post their résumés online, and contractors can use COIN to find workers who have been trained to fill shortages.

This month MCEF also is launching a construction competition for students in our secondary programs, and we just announced the recipient of MCEF’s Outstanding Counselor of the Year award — Connie Goff, a 30-year education professional at Jackson County Technology Center.

Even though more students are making the connection between CTE and career satisfaction, there’s still resistance from some who believe a four-year college degree is the only answer.

Fact is technology and automation have transformed the construction industry and just about every other industry. Thanks in large part to CTE programs, there are more paths than ever that lead to degree programs and stable, high-paying careers. Cutting off those paths only puts students at a disadvantage when they enter the highly competitive job market.

Over the last decade, MCEF has cast a wide net to reach as many Mississippians as possible with a positive message about CTE and the doors it can open in the construction industry for career-minded students. We talk to parents, teachers, counselors and community leaders about how CTE connects today’s students to a world of lucrative professions, many of which didn’t exist when we were growing up.

For most young people, it’s not a hard sell. Thanks to Mississippi’s accredited CTE programs, they’re being exposed to exciting new technologies and learning trades from construction industry professionals. Many students intern with local industries and earn credits while gaining valuable hands-on training and experience. By the time they graduate, they have great jobs awaiting them.

Starting pay for many of these jobs is $12 to $14 an hour. As employees gain more skills and experience, they can command higher salaries and get promoted into management roles or make lateral moves to other jobs they’re interested in learning.

We think it’s important to reach kids before high school and assure them that CTE is a wise choice, even if they plan to attend college. Thousands of junior high students have attended our career expos, and later this month we’re sponsoring the FORGE Your Path Career Expo for eighth graders in Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties.

It’s always rewarding to see students’ faces light up whenever they see a skill that sparks their interest and drives their curiosity to learn more. Finding a profession they’re passionate about increases their chances of achieving success in high school and far beyond.

To address the construction labor shortage in Mississippi, we’re partnering with industries to develop training programs to prepare graduates for the workforce. Companies are looking for skilled workers and creative thinkers who know the latest technologies and want to take on new challenges and solve problems.

We know students are up to the task. Now Mississippi needs to get behind them. MCEF encourages you to become an advocate for CTE in your community. Learn about the success stories happening every day because of the availability of high-quality CTE instruction in your school district. Check out the career possibilities awaiting students who choose CTE. A great place to start is MCEF’s new website at