MERIDIAN – Keeping up with changing technology that allows the greatest efficiency and productivity is one facet of workforce training programs offered through Meridian Community College (MCC).
Training can be focused on teaching employees to run one specific piece of equipment, or on broader based skills applications such as learning how to use common computer software programs.
“There is a wide gamut of different training that is available,” said MCC Dean of Continuing Education Janet Heggie. “The advantage as far as local industry is that we can train from the very basics all the way through ISO certification. This encompasses a wide range of activities for companies in different stages of operation. The beauty of this program is the flexibility we have because we can hire someone within the company, within the college or in the community to conduct the training, and the training can be done at various sites. The flexibility makes it very, very easy for companies to receive the type of training they need.”
Heggie said if an industry gets a new piece of equipment, the college can develop training for that one piece of equipment. Training can also include teaching language skills for employees who speak English as a second language, or supervisors who need language skills to communicate with non-English speaking employees.
One of the larger employers in the area is Peavey Electronics, which is headquartered in Meridian. The community college has an instructor who works with Peavey Electronics employees 20 hours per week on computer skills training. Another instructor works with their technicians.
MCC also does sheriff’s reserve officer training. The program has grown from initially offering courses just to the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department and Meridian Police Department to now offering some classes statewide.
“We try to form as many partnerships as possible, and this is one of those that has worked really well,” Heggie said. “We have a training facility here in Meridian that we are able to use for additional outside activities.”
Another company that takes advantage of the training available at MCC is Avery Dennison, which manufactures notebooks and binders. MCC does training with computer and numerical controls, as well as other job-specific training classes for Avery Dennison.
Pre-hire training programs are also popular. Ludlow Corp. just completed their third pre-hire training program, using it to prepare new employees to meet the company’s expansion needs. Ludlow is a materials coating manufacturer.
Construction labor is in short supply in Mississippi, and the college is also involved in training people in different areas of construction for companies such as O.L. Snowden and Sons Construction. MCC also does management training with Rush Foundation Hospital.
Heggie says the tight labor market combined with changing technology makes it necessary to constantly upgrade the skills of the workforce.
“It is very evident people are having to retrain employees they have because our technology is changing so rapidly,” Heggie said. “Training employees we already have is important. Our companies have to be on the cutting edge of technology in order to stay in business.”
Jean Willis, workforce development coordinator, said that she does job task and skills analyses that can be used in two ways. One, it helps companies identify physical tasks and thinking skills required to perform a job. Once they have that information, MCC can use it to help them develop training that is customized to particular jobs within their industry. It also can be used to document job procedures for other functions such as ISO 9000 certification and QS 9000 certification, one of highest quality certifications in the automotive industry.
For the Ludlow pre-hire employment class, Willis analyzed two jobs for which the company needed to train people. She detailed the writing, reading, math and communication skills needed to perform the jobs, and developed a training program around that.
“We also developed two videos that were customized for them that pretty much covered all of the tasks in those two jobs that were analyzed,” Willis said. “They now have two videos that can be used for training purposes. A person can view the videos, and have a very good idea of what the job entails.”
Willis said each of the 15 community college in the state has a workforce development coordinator focused towards developing programs to meet the needs of individual companies.
“The main thing is knowing that we are a resource,” she said. “Call on us, and we can work out an agreement that will be suitable.”
Computer skills training is one of the most popular of the workforce training programs. Bill Hughes, MCC workforce development instructor, said students are coming out of high school with better computer skills. But there are still a lot of people in the workforce who need to know more about how to operate computers.
Hughes has observed that often employees will do just what they have been told to do on a computer without realizing that there are other programs that could save them a lot of time. For example, secretaries can type a letter on a computer but are not familiar with mail merge and other time-saving functions.
“Computers can greatly improve efficiency and productivity,” Hughes said. “Computer knowledge can make the employee more effective. That’s the problem I see right now. A lot of companies have computers, but they aren’t taking advantage of all the computer can do for them because they haven’t trained their employees to utilize the computer properly. I’m surprised the people who don’t know how to cut and paste, and are scared to do mail merge. Employees need to know that utilizing computer technology could help them tremendously with their jobs.”
In fiscal 1998 MCC provided training to 3,212 people from 226 companies. In addition to the categories already mentioned, types of training include leadership seminars, investment workshops, health and safety workshops, supervisory training, electrician apprenticeship classes, food safety training and customized customer training.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.