Mon, 06/20/2022 – 1:05 p.m. | By: Van Arnold

Teachers from across the state traveled to the Gulf Coast earlier this month to attend
GenSea Blue Economy course, a professional development experience sponsored by the Center for STEM Education at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). The program introduced them to jobs in Mississippi’s blue economy as part of a new workforce development initiative.

Nineteen faculty spent three days at USM’s coastal campuses meeting with USM scientists and engineers, as well as local blue economy professionals from business and government.

Dr. Julie Cwikla, Director of the Center for STEM Education, said: “Investing in teachers, deepening their knowledge and diversifying their experiences always provides a tremendous return on investment. Each of these GenSea workshop teachers will pass on what they have learned about blue economy career paths to their 100 students in the fall. Imagine what we can do for the future workforce if we maintain this cycle of learning.

Each day of the program is aligned with specific sectors in marine-related fields. The first day, centered on the Gulfport Marine Research Center, focused on marine robotics and unmanned maritime systems. Its location at the Port of Gulfport also provided an introduction to careers in logistics.

Day two took place at both campuses of USM Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and USM Fleet Operations in Biloxi, covering marine science research, education and careers popularization.

The final day at Stennis Space Center covered government and military science careers, with tours of NASA, NOAA, and Navy facilities in addition to the USM Department of Marine Science.

Each day, a panel of experts in blue economy fields answered questions from teachers about the education and training needed to get these jobs. Along the way, teachers visited private facilities including Ocean Aero, Mississippi Aquarium, Biloxi Maritime & Seafood Museum, and Rocket Aerodyne to complete the experience.

Teacher feedback on the experience has been overwhelmingly positive:

“It was amazing and one of the most beneficial teacher workshops I have ever attended…We have an amazing blue economy in our backyard and these local students and beyond need to know everything what it offers besides white sand beaches.”

“My expectations were exceeded for this training. . . We have enjoyed discovering and meeting professionals who have expressed an interest in helping us connect our students to jobs. We felt like VIPs for the three days, and it was extremely rewarding.

“Before my 3 day experience, I would have told anyone that I understood what was available for the future workforce in Mississippi. During and after my experience, I learned about the exciting behind the scenes of Gulfport, Biloxi ” little Vegas”.”

GenSea’s Director of Communications and Curriculum, Tara Skelton, said of the event, “The teacher response to this experience has been very rewarding and in large part because of the buy-in from the whole community. to the GenSea project. It is in the interest of the blue economy sector as a whole to have a pool of technically trained students to fill these positions. These offices and industries recognize this and have been very supportive. »

GenSea: Blue Economy Journey introduces Mississippi high school students to the vast career opportunities in our coastal corridor. This collaborative USM workforce development effort involves the Center for STEM Education and the School of Ocean Science and Engineering, with generous support from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. To learn more, visit usm-gensea.org.