PEARL ― Jazmine Melton didn’t have construction experience when she enrolled at Mississippi State University - but that didn’t stop her from diving head-first into the Building Construction Science program. Today, with her bachelor’s degree in hand and a world of opportunities ahead, Melton’s journey is proof that Mississippi is a great place to launch a career in construction.

“I love telling people about my interest in construction and the career paths available in the industry,” said Melton, a native of Huntsville, Alabama “I explain that everyone depends on construction, from the homes they live in to the buildings they work in, and every construction project involves different jobs and skill sets. It’s an industry that’s not going away.”

As one of only two programs of its kind in the nation, MSU’s Building Construction Science program was a perfect fit for Melton’s career aspirations. While working on her degree, she also was able to build her skills and résumé, thanks to opportunities provided by the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation.

In 2019, she was lead counselor for MSU’s first-ever iBuild Summer Camp presented in partnership with MCEF, which provided four days of hands-on building experiences for 21 students ages 12-17; and she helped organize activities for 1,000 eighth graders during the Forge Your Path Career Expo, a collaboration between MCEF and the FORGE Foundation.

“It was a lot of fun teaching kids about construction and showing them how to use basic tools, like drills and hammers,” Melton said. “It’s important to reach students at a young age. MCEF has done a great job of bridging the gap between middle school and college by helping steer more students toward construction careers.”

Participating in MCEF events also enabled Melton to meet and network with construction industry professionals from around the state, including Christee Holbrook, owner and president of Graham Roofing, Inc. Earlier this year, Holbrook offered Melton an office internship with the West Point-based company.

“Jazmine really took ownership of the iBuild Summer Camp and wasn’t shy about talking and coordinating with students and adults,” Holbrook said. “She planned all of the meals and nightly activities and even gave each attendee an award that she came up with on her own, like funniest student and best football player. She worked so hard without any complaints. She was amazing!”

“Our industry desperately needs more people, including females and other minorities,” Holbrook said. “Despite the challenges she faced as the first African American female in MSU’s construction program, Jazmine remained determined and focused, which has paid off. As a non-traditional construction student, she’s helping pave the way and will be a positive and encouraging mentor to other women entering the construction industry.”

Melton graduated from Mississippi State on April 30 and is preparing to start a new job as a field engineer with Robins & Morton. Her first project will be a hospital renovation in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she will be based for the next 12 to 14 months.

“My position will be travel-based and project-based, which I really like,” she said. “In construction, you can make a positive impact wherever you build. If you build a school, 10 or 20 years from now, your kids may be going to the school you built. That’s the part that satisfies people in construction. You can look back on a project you worked on and see that it’s contributing to the community.”

Despite financial impacts of the pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that construction occupations are projected to grow, a trend that could receive a boost if the U.S. moves forward with comprehensive infrastructure investments.

Whatever the future holds, MCEF will continue to provide access to training, networking and mentoring opportunities to prepare students at all levels for rewarding careers — opportunities that were beneficial for Melton in her degree studies.

“Jazmine is an example of the high-performing, career-focused students who are choosing to build their futures in construction,” said Mike Barkett, MCEF president. “Everyone who worked with Jazmine knows she will excel no matter where she goes. We wish her the very best, and we look forward to following her career success.”

MCEF is a non-profit educational foundation that provides NCCER craft training and credentialing in 112 career and technical programs across the state. The foundation’s mission is to train individuals for the construction and manufacturing industries in Mississippi.

MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades. Learn more about MCEF at