PERKINSTON — The proof is in the paycheck. Nearly 11,000 people in four coastal counties received workforce training from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) in 1998. Many of those receiving training were able to improve their salary — or get their first full-time job — as a result.
“When a student comes back and shows the instructor his first paycheck, the satisfaction is just overwhelming,” said Stacy Carmichael, workforce development director, MGCCC, Jackson County. “I know we are making a big difference because I’ve seen these students get their first job. And I’ve seen students get better jobs or move up in the company. Parents are excited that their children are able to get good jobs. In all of our programs, we have such a close relationship with the companies. It is truly a partnership with the state, the college, and the industry. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Training programs run the gamut from hospitality awareness training for hospitals, banks and casinos to professional development training to crafts training in the area of welding and pipefitting.
Carmichael said one of the strengths of the workforce training is flexibility and quick response to the needs of businesses, industries and employees. In some cases training programs have been put in place in as little as 24 hours.
“When we talk with a new business, they ask, ‘What can you do for us?’,” Carmichael said. “My response is, ‘You tell me what you need, and how you need it. And we’ll make that happen.’ We look at what the company wants, and then customize that class for what they need even if that means classes from midnight to 4 a.m. for graveyard shift employees. We offer flexibility as a service.”
Participants in the program can be older workers or kids just out of high school. With a referral from a local company, students can attend training programs free of charge to get the basic skills they need to get a job.
A number of people in the program have been working in low-paying jobs, and are looking for better pay. They are attracted to jobs in the craft fields such as welding and pipefitting that have starting salaries around the $10 per hour range with top pay at about $15 per hour after gaining experience. The workforce training program allows the workers to be retrained while keeping their present job. Students can set their own hours for training, working around work and family commitments.
“The program is very flexible for people with families and a present job,” Carmichael said. “The training is individualized, so you can go at a faster or slower rate depending on needs.”
Carmichael said an increasing number of women are going into the crafts fields. There is a big demand for those kinds of jobs on the Coast. And, because most shipyards have a large backlog of work, workers are also able to work overtime for more pay. Most of the companies have their own training programs, as well. So once workers are established in the company, they can continue to improve their skills and salary level with upgrade training.
MGCCC has several training programs with local companies such as Friede Goldman and Halter Marine. The community college is also heavily involved in the Ingalls Apprentice program that trains about 850 apprentices per year. In addition to hands-on training, the apprentices also are required to take two classes per year on campus. Another 4,000 to 4,500 Ingalls employees per year attend in-plant training programs to upgrade skill levels.
Carmichael said that local industries cooperate to help with the workforce training programs.
“Ingalls, Halter and Friede Goldman are all working together to put the program on,” Carmichael said. “They aren’t worried about who gets what workers. They are just worried about getting workers. So the competition goes away, and they work closely to make these programs produce quality individuals.”
Ingalls also sponsors continuing education programs, helping to pay a portion of the cost of those programs that are for both Ingalls employees and the public. The programs range from beginning typing to sheetmetal application, blueprint reading, and Autocad.
Other training for heavy industries includes chemical hazard training, forklift training, CPR/first aid and HAZCOM, a program that teaches techniques for proper safe handling of hazardous materials.
Computer applications training is also in great demand by local businesses and industry. Microsoft Office and Corel Suite computer application training are popular as are courses that teach leadership skills for supervisors.
Computer training can be done in several ways. A mobile training unit, a large travel trailer that has been gutted to make a computer lab, is used to provide training at work sites.
“Our training is available pretty much any time and any place,” Carmichael said. “We’re trying to get away from boundaries, and give businesses what they need, when they need it, and how they need it.”
For more information about the workforce training program, Carmichael can be reached at (228) 497-7828.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org.