By NASH NUNNERY
On a bustling 900-acre site off of I-20 just west of Clinton, site work at the new Continental Tire plant is well under way. Actual construction on the plant will begin in January.
But long before the tire producer opens its doors for production at the end of 2019, four Hinds Community College students are getting a bird’s-eye view of operations in a large tire manufacturing plant this summer. Beginning June 4, the students will get on-the-job experience from Continental maintenance and engineering experts in electrical, mechanical and hydraulic systems.
The students, who are enrolled in the college’s industrial maintenance, electrical and electronic technologies programs, were selected to participate in a nine-week, paid summer internship program at the company’s Mount Vernon, Ill., tire plant.
“The Continental program is an awesome opportunity for our students to get hands on practical experience in a commercial tire operation,” said David Creel, Hinds’ district director of manufacturing training. “There is no doubt that these fine young men will represent themselves and Hinds Community College very well.”
According to Continental, maintenance technicians will be among the first positions filled when hiring begins for the Clinton plant in late 2018. Maintenance techs will play a key role in the company’s daily operations with responsibility for reactive and preventative equipment upkeep throughout the proposed commercial tire production facility.
Mack Pope, 25, one of the students selected, is looking forward to the opportunity. Accepted into Hinds’ radiology program earlier, he discovered hospital work was not in his future.
“I’ve been taking things apart since I was five- years old, when I got my first screwdriver,” said the Terry resident. “I found the electronics program here, and that interested me the most of all the technical programs.”
Other HCC student interns selected for the program include Ken Anderson, Dylan Canant and Samuel Williams.
Continental Tire executive TJ McKinney anticipates a lot of interest in employment with the new plant once the hiring process begins. Though an internship doesn’t guarantee interns a job, McKinney, who serves as Continental’s director of human relations, said the experience certainly won’t hinder their prospects.
“All candidates including interns will have to go through the same selection process,” he said. “However, I am sure having hands-on experience with Continental’s equipment and knowledge of our processes will prove to be favorable for the interns.”
McKinney said the internship partnership may transition into an apprenticeship program once the Clinton plant is built.
“We will determine the shape and future of the internship program on a yearly basis so that we best meet the needs of Continental and Hinds Community College,” he said.
He added that Continental has relationships with community colleges in each of the company’s tire manufacturing plant locations.
“Through these partnerships, we typically offer the maintenance apprentice program to help develop our future workforce,” McKinney said. “Because the Clinton plant is still in the early stages of development, we partnered with Hinds to offer the internship program.
“In contrast to the apprenticeship’s year-round work schedule at the local plant, the internship offers on-the-job experience at a remote location during the summer only.”
In addition to having a 3.0 GPA and a positive attendance record, the students selected also were required to complete Continental’s standard application and submit three letters of recommendation. Finalists were then brought to the Mt. Vernon plant for interviews.
The Hinds interns will report for their first day on June 5.
Williams, a Hinds CC Dean’s List student on the Rankin campus, said he’s excited and ready to go.
“This is a whole new chapter in my life and I can’t wait to get up there,” he said.