MERIDIAN — A manufacturing program instituted at Mississippi State University (MSU), Meridian campus, in response to requests from industry, is helping better prepare manufacturing employees to compete in the global economy.
University officials said the bachelor of science in manufacturing technology degree helps close the gap in manufacturing training. Local community colleges provide good vocational-technical training at the two-year level. The bachelor’s program enables technology graduates to build on that vo-tech training and equip themselves to become life-long learners who are prepared to adapt to rapidly evolving technologies. It also provides industries in the region with a pool of personnel helpful in maintaining their competitive position in a rapidly changing global economy.
Meridian campus dean David Moffett said that the program was instituted in response to industry leaders expressing concerns that, if they are going to succeed in the new high-tech, global economy, then education of the workforce based on critical concerns of industry must be provided.
The program instituted two years ago has been well received by local industry.
“I have two employees at East Central Community College now who will be able to transfer on to the MSU-Meridian campus and work on their bachelor’s in manufacturing technology,” said Karl Brantley, plant manager at U.S. Electric Motors in Philadelphia. “In the past we haven’t had the vehicle locally to get past the two-year program.”
Brantley said a combination of education and experience is the key to successful manufacturing employees. He said that with the trend to push responsibility downward in industry, greater emphasis is being placed on human resources skills—being able to manage and motivate employees toward improved performance.
“And with computers located throughout the plant, I need people with real strengths in spreadsheets, layouts and various computer applications,” he said.
Community college leaders were active participants in developing the new program, and have committed laboratory facilities, assistance with curriculum development, and full cooperation to assure a smooth transition for the technology transfer students.
John S. “Stan” Williams was named the first faculty member in the manufacturing science division of MSU-Meridian’s Division of Technology. Williams, a native of Meridian, received his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology with a management and manufacturing emphasis, and a master’s degree in business administration, both from MSU.
With the aid of an advisory council comprised of regional educational and industrial leaders, Williams has designed a core curriculum based on four broad areas of manufacturing science: manufacturing methods, facilities operations, regulatory agencies, and transportation and packaging.
Williams initially met with regional industrial leaders to identify specific areas of expertise to be included in the curriculum.
“They tell us what they want, and it is our job to deliver,” Williams said. “With their input we are designing an educational program geared to meet their needs. The only constant in today’s work environment is change. With a broad-based exposure to many different manufacturing concepts, the students learn how to manage change in a manufacturing environment.”
Most of the people in the manufacturing program are adult learners with jobs and families. Ennis E. “Chip” Bailey, chair of the Division of Technology, said the students are serious about improving the quality of their lives, and their chances for promotions.
“Because the program serves a non-traditional student population with inherent life skills, we are able to do things a little out of the box,” Bailey said.
Some students in the program are also serving on the advisory council for developing the curriculum.
“I know what my needs are as a student, and as an employee actually working in industry,” said Phillip Lewis, a plant manager at Fulgham Fibers, Inc. “In some cases, administrators of colleges do not know the needs of a manufacturer. I do because I am there every day.”
Lewis was enrolled in a similar program at another university but became bogged down with strange class schedules while trying to work full time. Moving to Meridian gave him the opportunity to continue his education at the Meridian campus.
“The manufacturing science degree program at MSU-Meridian was very attractive, and it better suited my needs in manufacturing,” Lewis said. “It will open new doors, and make me a stronger candidate for promotions within the company.”
Another student/advisor is Dale Frazier, an employee of Peavey Electronics. Frazier enrolled in the program after approaching the head of training and personnel at Peavey Electronics about job advancement and continuing education.
“I am in the unique position where I can use my employment at Peavey to offer input from the manufacturer’s standpoint to improve the college and this curriculum,” Frazier said. “Through my job I know what needs exist, and the changes that need to be made to make classes more accessible for the working students.”
For more information about the program, contact Chip Bailey at 1-800-824-5288, extension 115, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.