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Center for technology partnership important for economic development

Pearl River Community College initiative boosting workforce

HATTIESBURG — The new $5-million Advanced Center for Technology Partnership (ACTP) for Pearl River Community College under construction at the Hattiesburg-Forrest County Industrial Park is considered one of the area’s most important economic development projects in years.

The Hattiesburg ACTP site will serve as a facilitation center, or hub, for the six counties served by PRCC, facilitating technology training and development throughout the region through four network distribution centers.

“There is no project more important to economic development than this,” said Lowery Woodall, retired CEO of Forrest General Hospital and Area Development Partnership (ADP) ACTP Task Force Chairman. “This center will allow our region to compete worldwide.”

The ACTP will concentrate on advancing underused technology, technology development, training delivery, education and workforce transfer. PRCC President Ted Alexander says the center will concentrate on technology which is on the market, but not internalized in education. It will also include research of emerging and new technology, resources and training techniques which will be marketed five to 10 years in the future.

Gray Swoope, president of the ADP, and treasurer of the ACTP Advisory Board, said the ACTP will be an important ingredient in attracting new industries and businesses to the region. But, more importantly, it will support our existing businesses in providing needed skills.

“This center will complement all of our efforts,” Swoope said.

Pete Woody, plant manager for Wellman in Hancock County, and a member of the ACTP board, said the center will be important to the region’s competitiveness.

“Wellman has a $450-million investment in Mississippi,” Woody said. “We supply the growing plastics industry, and we must have access to the best technology because we compete with other companies all over the world.”

PRCC has a variety of workforce training programs in place in the Pine Belt region counties served by the college.

“We are working with local industry in all kinds of areas, providing everything from safety seminars for individual companies to classes on how to operate a fork lift to handling computers with applications on a particular job,” says Larry Sanford, PRCC public relations director. “Our programs are very varied.”

Stanford said the programs tailored to the needs of local businesses and industry can range from two weeks to as much as a year. One offering is a machine mold-making class first designed to train employees for the Sunbeam plant at the Hattiesburg Industrial Park. Now the program has been converted to a regular program for anyone interested in a career in injection mold manufacturing, die making, tool and die work, gig and fixture construction and customized machine manufacturing.

The PRCC workforce training programs are conducted in cooperation with the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Mississippi Workforce Development Council. An advisory council consisting of local business and industry leaders helps design courses so they meet the needs of industry for workforce training.

The Workforce Development Center functions as a WorkKeys Service Center that teaches skills for a wide range of jobs. WorkKeys System sessions include reading for information, applied mathematics, locating information, applied technology, writing, listening, teamwork and observation. The WorkKeys focus is to assist customers with selection, retention and training of new and current employees.

The three phases of WorkKeys are:

• Job profiling. This process assists a customer in determining the level of skill required to perform a job in any of the eight skill areas measured by WorkKeys. This process involves a trained job profiler and subject matter experts who are currently employed in the job being profiled. An analysis of the critical tasks and the levels of skills required to perform the tasks will be determined.

• Assessments. After completing a job profile, individuals may be assessed in any of the eight areas to determine if there is a match between their individual profile and the profile of the job. This may be used in selection of new employees, determining training needs and for promotion and transfers within a company.

• Training. From the results of the assessments, a company can identify training needs. Training may be in the area of basic skills, interpersonal skills or technical skills. This system will help assess the current workforce and identify areas in which improvement may be needed.

The Workforce Development Center provides all WorkKeys services, and provides on site scoring for assessments.

PRCC also has a Workforce Development Center that assesses, counsels and refers individuals to training and/or jobs. Emphasis is placed on the non-traditional student: displaced workers, adults seeking career changes and the unemployed. The Workforce Development Center operates as an official branch of the Mississippi State Employment Service, and has a counselor located at the center with computer access to the Jobs Service Data Base.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com.

About Becky Gillette

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