3 on Your Side: Where the jobs are - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 on Your Side: Where the jobs are

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Melanie Johnston of Performance Rehab Physical and Occupational Therapy in Ridgeland is helping Norman Smith with a fine motor exercise using putty.  "There are pennies in there he has to find, but he's working all the muscles in his hands," she said. "My job title is Certified Occupational Therapist.  I work under the supervision of an Occupational Therapist."

Johnston received a two-year degree from Holmes Community College in 2005.

"I make a very good salary, much more than if I had tried to find a job without a degree," said Johnston.

And how about her boss, Daron Walters, who co-owns two Performance Rehab locations with his wife, Suzanne, an Occupational Therapist.  They're about to open three more locations. "Started out with four of us.  Now we have about 30 therapists," Daron said.

Daron is a Licensed Physical Therapy Assistant.  "I went to Pearl River Community College and got in the PTA program down there, graduated two years later," he said.

Regarding job openings, he said, "I never have seen a time when we didn't need a therapist."

In other words, these career paths, and most others offered in career and technical education programs at community colleges, are in demand.

Eric Clark directs the Mississippi Board of Community and Junior Colleges.  Thursday, he held the first-ever Career and Technical Summer Conference at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson.

There, instructors sharpened their teaching techniques to prepare for students who plan to avoid the unemployment line.

"Whether it's welders, plumbers, nurses, auto mechanics," Clark said.  "There are jobs in Mississippi, and jobs that will come to Mississippi, that pay good wages, but you can't get them in you're not educated."

Starting salaries are generally good.  "Coming out two years, coming out making $35, $45, $50,000 a year, it's unbelievable," Daron said of the starting salaries as an Occupational Therapy Assistant.  "There are some (physical therapy assistants) in the Delta who make in the $75-$85,000 range."

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