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MDCC takes ‘proactive role’ on Delta economic development

MOORHEAD – Helping local new and existing businesses find and train quality employees while helping area residents obtain quality jobs that lead to a higher standard of living for their families are the primary goals of the Mississippi Delta Community College’s (MDCC) Center for Career and Workforce Development

“The Center for Career and Workforce Development at MDCC has taken a proactive role in the economic development of the region by not only supplying the training requested by our customers, but also by assisting local businesses in the assessment of the resident skills of the current workforce and skill requirements of the future workforce,” said Dr. Tony Honeycutt, dean of career and workforce development at MDCC. “To be effective, workforce training must extend to all levels of the workforce. MDCC offers a wide array of training options for the prospective customer – everything from basic academic skills to CNC applications and robotics.”

Royal Vendors, a manufacturer of coin-operated cold drink vending machines based in Kearneysville, W.V., recently located their second plant in Cleveland. MDCC worked with company officials to successfully develop and implement a pre-employment training program for Royal Vendors.

“Pre-employment training provided through MDCC gave us the opportunity to affirm our screening and selection process,” said Mike Easley, plant manager of Cleveland operations.”Through eight training sessions we were able to convey our system of plant operations, observe the trainees acquisition of skills, and start to build a relationship with these future employees.”

The availability of a trained workforce is of major importance to an industry looking to relocate or expand in an area. Mark Manning, director of development at Delta Council, said prospective industries frequently ask about the quality of the Delta’s workforce.

“The success of numerous Delta companies in securing a workforce that meets their employment standards through training and/or other services provided by MDCC’s Center for Career and Workforce Development has made questions about the ability of our workforce easier to answer,” Manning said.

Pre-employment training is a vital component of MDCC’s workforce development program but it is not the only component. Honeycutt said that in order to meet the needs of a diversity of companies with a diversity of workforces, a diversity of training programs must be provided.

“With the support of the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, community colleges throughout the state have the flexibility to design, develop, and implement training programs to meet the specific needs of businesses within its service delivery area,” Honeycutt said. “In addition to the more traditional workforce training course including basic skills, blueprint reading, precision measurement, computer applications, industrial safety, and supervisory management, MDCC has also conducted training programs on topics ranging from “how to stop smoking” to “how to service and maintain gas chromatograph test equipment.”

In the past year MDCC served 9,758 individuals and 117 businesses. And it would like to do more. Honeycutt said that although employer and individual participation in workforce training programs has increased dramatically since creation of the center, they are partnering with less than 40% of the businesses in their district.

“We still have to reach more of the employers and individuals in the Delta if we are going to accomplish our goal of not only providing a steady stream of well-trained entrants into the workforce of the Delta while upgrading the skills of the current workforce,” Honeycutt said.

Although training for the manufacturing sector represents approximately 80% of the total training projects conducted through the center, training projects for service sector industries are increasing at a fast pace. The impact of moving to an information based economy and advances in manufacturing technology have led to an increased demand for a technically literate workforce in all sectors of the economy.

Agriculture, still an economic juggernaut in the region, has not been left out of the technology revolution. Advances in GPS, GIS, and variable rate technology are increasing the demand from area crop producers for workforce training. MDCC is partnering with Mississippi State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Delta Regional Extension Center, Delta Council, and local companies to develop training programs in precision farming.

“Training assistance and other resources provided by MDCC’s Center for Career and Workforce Development has allowed our company to expand its operations without having to worry about where to get the training we need,” says John E. Williams, president of GPS, Inc.

MDCC is building upon its reputation as a provider of quality workforce training programs. One of the goals of the Center for Career and Workforce Development is to position MDCC at the center of the Delta’s economic and workforce development initiative. Accomplishment of this goal is dependent upon the development of partnerships among economic development agencies, elected officials of local and state government, secondary schools, and private sector businesses.

Honeycutt said these training partnerships have been strengthened by a realization that more can be accomplished by working together. A major outcome of these partnerships was the development of a proposal for a state-of-the-art workforce training and development center for MDCC. The proposal was developed with assistance from Dr. Malcolm Portera prior to his appointment to the presidency of Mississippi State University.

Funding for the construction of the facility in the amount of $4 million was provided by the Mid Delta Empowerment Zone Alliance. Additional funding and donations received from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Dollar General Distribution Center, Viking Range Corporation, and U S Axminster is being used to complete the construction process. The Delta Center, under construction and scheduled for completion in December 2000, will greatly enhance the college’s ability to deliver customized and flexible training programs to the businesses of the Delta. For more information on training programs and/or other services offered through the Center for Career and Workforce Development at MDCC, contact Honeycutt at (662) 246-6526 or send an e-mail to: thoneycutt@mdcc.cc.ms.us.

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

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