Cooperative Competes Grant Awarded for the Sea Force Career Exploration Program in Harrison County, Miss.

Hattiesburg, Miss. (February 2021) — Cooperative Energy, together with the 11 Member distribution cooperatives it serves, recently announced the award of a Cooperative Competes grant to the Harrison County Development Commission for the Sea Force career exploration program.

“Exposing students at a young age to career pathways is one of the best ways we can ensure economic growth in our community,” said Ron Barnes, Coast Electric president and CEO. “Helping fund the Sea Force program is a tangible investment in the next generation workforce.”

The Harrison County Development Commission founded the Sea Force career exploration program in 2019. Sea Force is a novel approach to career exploration in Harrison County. The program involves partnerships with local high schools and businesses to match students with career pathways in the region.

Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian, Harrison County, and Biloxi school districts recommend high school juniors and seniors to participate in the program. Students participate in job interviews at a business of their choice, and if they are a good fit, they are hired.

Most importantly, there is no cost for students or businesses for participating in the Sea Force program.  The Harrison County Development Commission pays the students’ wages for the duration of their work. Funds from grants like the Cooperative Competes program help make the program possible.

“Sea Force is the ultimate win/win because students are given exposure to careers in our region, and businesses are provided access to quality talent at no additional cost,” said Bill Lavers, director of the Harrison County Development Commission. “However, the program wouldn’t be possible without the financial support of partners like Coast Electric and Cooperative Energy.”

The Cooperative Competes initiative, aimed at increasing community competitiveness, was unveiled in early 2019. A component of the initiative allows economic development organizations to apply for grant funds to support industrial property, workforce, or community development efforts throughout Mississippi. These funds are provided jointly by Cooperative Energy’s 11 Member distribution cooperatives.

“Many times Cooperative Competes funds are used for property development or industrial marketing, something much needed across the state,” said Barnes. “However, the opportunity to use grant funds to invest in our youth is even more exciting, because we’re potentially changing lives”.

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