Editor's note: The Daily Journal has highlighted career pathways throughout the Imagine the Possibilities expo, and will continue to feature additional pathways each month.

TUPELO • Joy Deason knows it takes all kinds of professionals to make the energy and engineering industries work.

Every manufacturing company has technically trained employees on staff, and some have college degrees while others do not, the Houston High School career coach said.

“Applied technical skills are what make the world go round,” Deason said. “Everybody is not going to be an engineer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be in there working on a machine that’s critical to making a manufacturing process run.”

Northeast Mississippi students interested in energy and engineering careers have had the opportunity to explore energy and engineering pathways during April as part of the ongoing Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo virtual experience.

The expo provides students access to a range of information about the energy and engineering pathways via videos, podcasts and other sources. Sponsored by the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund and the CREATE Foundation, the interactive career expo launched on Oct. 6, 2020, to help eighth through 12th grade students learn about potential career pathways. 

Deason became the career coach for Houston High School two years ago after retiring from a 35-year career where she worked both as a chemical engineer and consultant for oil and gas companies.

Her favorite part of the job is helping students realize and connect with opportunities that can change their lives.

"Houston’s a small town, and a lot of kids there haven’t been exposed to a lot of different kinds of jobs," she said. "We walk them through a process where they discover some of their natural talents, and we can just open the world up for them."

Having worked across the world, Deason helps students realize why they're in school for 12 years and pushes them to visualize the possibilities that exist for themselves after high school.

She tells students that pursuing a career in energy or engineering begins with a love of math, and close behind that, science. Having an intellectual curiosity and wanting to know how things work and why things happen is also a necessity.

And there are plenty of businesses across Northeast Mississippi to hire engineers, from General Atomics to Toyota, along with ample opportunities for energy workers at power companies or local manufacturers.

Jennifer Johnson, human resources manager for the Pontotoc Electric Power Association, recently shared with students that line workers or right-of-way trimmers typically start out making around $15 per hour.

But there are opportunities to earn more money after completing an apprenticeship program, which takes between four and seven years to become a lineman.

Engineers for the company can make upwards of $100,000, she added.

Deason especially encourages students to consider jobs in engineering "because they are able to make our lives better everyday."

"Every road that’s built, every bottle that has Coke in it, every time you get a new car, you are enjoying the products of an engineer," Deason said. "Our society and world wouldn't be what it is without engineers, at all levels, bringing us the quality."

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