An existing building at MGCCC’s Jackson County Campus will receive a $5 million addition and upgrade as the new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) building at the campus.

By 2018, the Department of Labor statistics shows that there will be 46,000 new science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs in Mississippi and nearly 8.7 million jobs in those fields nationwide. Estimates also show the U.S. will have over 1.2 million unfilled jobs in STEM fields by 2018, a number that has government officials concerned and that the U.S. Department of Defense considers a national security issue. To fill that gap, colleges and universities have been urged to graduate an additional 1 million students with STEM majors in the next few years.

Answering that call to action, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Board of Trustees approved a $5 million building project meant to boost STEM programs at the college’s Jackson County Campus. The project, paid for with state and local funding, will renovate and add a new wing to the existing STEM building there and will provide for 10,000 square feet of additional space to house classrooms and labs for additional STEM courses in science and pre-engineering. It will also provide for the building to be updated to a state-of-the-art facility that will include collaborative labs and areas for various science and technology projects.

“Because we have strong partnerships with local industries, like Ingalls Shipbuilding and Chevron Corporation, where STEM skills are vital to their workforce, we want to make sure our students are prepared to work in those areas,” said Dr. Mary S. Graham, MGCCC president. “Additionally, the highest-paying jobs in the country are those in STEM fields, giving our students the opportunity to find great careers that will pay them well. And with Mississippi’s median income of about $38,000 per household as compared to the national average of $52,000, more students prepared for jobs in high-paying, in-demand fields will help close the income and employment gap that separates our state from the rest of the country.”

Rankings provided by the website CareerCast show that nine of the 10 best jobs in 2014 were in STEM fields. Mathematician, computer analyst and engineer were the three top jobs on the list, with growth rates in each area projected to be more than 20 percent and median pay set at more than $100,000. In fact, the study showed that the average starting salary for entry-level STEM jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree is 26 percent higher than those for non-STEM fields.

“We know that by encouraging our students to major in the STEM fields, we are helping them become successful employees while also promoting regional economic development,” Graham said.

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