JMCSS starts new work initiative for high school students

JACKSON, Tenn. — Manufacturing jobs are in high demand in West Tennessee. Programs like LOOP are helping high school students prepare for those jobs.

LOOP, or the Local Options and Opportunities Program, gives students a chance to learn outside the classroom.

“For them to have the experience to see what it’s like to be at a job every day — you’re working with a team, everyone’s depending on you, you’re depending on them — that’s what we’re hoping they’ll learn,” said Randy Pearson, Jackson-Madison County School System’s career readiness coach.

LOOP partners with several businesses in Jackson and Madison County to give students a chance at getting hands-on experience.

“They’re working in the machine shop, and they’re also working in the compressor assembly, and they’re also in the returns department,” said Joseph Winter, supervisor at Stanley Black & Decker.

The program is a hybrid model, putting students in the classroom part time and in the factory part time.

Students take turns working on the basics in class, and on the floor with a mentor.

“From there, we teach them basic machine skills, basic assembly skills and basic reconditioning skills,” Winter said.

Students even get paid for their work.

This is the first semester for LOOP, and Pearson says they hope to expand the program next year.

“I wanted to do this one because I feel like I was more of a hands-on person,” North Side senior Cameron Walker said. “I feel like I would be better in a work-based situation.”

LOOP focuses on advanced manufacturing and culinary arts. Students say they hope the experience helps them in their careers.

“It will look good on my resume when I get ready to go to college or find a job somewhere else,” South Side senior Schkristah Montgomery said.

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