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Community college partners with local businesses to build quality workforce

Leadership, interpersonal skills training popular at Itawamba

TUPELO – Leadership and interpersonal skills training are two of the most popular offerings right now at the Tupelo campus of Itawamba Community College (ICC).

Andrea Hughes, executive director, ICC Workforce Development Center, said that different packages are available in the areas of leadership training and interpersonal training. Zig Ziglar products, Achieve Global products, and Vital Learning products are commonly utilized by ICC’s leadership skills specialist to deliver this type of training.

Computer training is also increasingly sought by a large variety of businesses. The types of training can range from general computer software packages such as Microsoft Office 2000 to more advanced computer training specific to particular industries. For example, related to furniture manufacturing, the Workforce Development Center offers classes in PDS 2000. Computer networking is also a hot topic at this time. To address that area, the Workforce Development Center offers classes like Network Fundamentals and Windows NT 4.0 Administration.

Really, the Workforce Development Center services go across the spectrum of training needs ranging from basic skills classes to the computer networking classes, Hughes said.

“One relatively new program offered through ICC is Teach Smart: PREVENT (TSP). TSP is a violent crisis prevention and intervention program for school systems. In light of the increased violence that we see occurring across our nation and even in our own state, we at the WDC feel that offering this program to school systems serves a vital need. As far as I know, ICC is presently the only district to have such a program in place.”

Hughes said that the programs offered by the Workforce Development Center are continually evolving as the needs of industry and business change.

“I enjoy working in the field because it is always changing,” Hughes said. “There is always a new challenge associated with it. As far as what we accomplish, we do a lot to keep employees in our area up to speed on skills and technology changes that they need in order to continue to be productive workers. The workplace today is totally different from the workplace of 15 years ago. Computers are commonplace, and the skill level needed for the workforce has changed to keep the pace. I feel that we at the Workforce Development Center play a key role in trying to keep that workforce up to par.

“Workforce training and retraining help retain jobs in our area and allow employees to get the skill upgrades that can lead to promotions and better pay. In relation to this topic, the Workforce Development Center can also assist companies with pre-employment certification programs. These programs are designed at the request of the company and consist of training modules selected by that particular organization.”

By companies going through this process on the front end, they can use this type program as part of the employee selection process to determine if a person has the baseline skills needed to be successful on a particular job, Hughes said.

Training done by ICC for True Temper Sports in Amory, which manufactures tubal components such as those needed for golf clubs and bicycles, gives an indication of the large variety of different types of workforce training available. Sherry Benedict, human resource supervisor for True Temper Sports, said her company has provided training (in conjunction with ICC’s Workforce Development Center) on a broad variety of topics including training in refrigeration, air conditioning, blue print reading, hydraulics, technical math, basic electricity, machine tool technology and welding.

“We’ve also used them (ICC) for enrichment courses such as Basic Computer Skills, Internet training, and Fundamentals of Investing,” Benedict said. “The benefits are it helps the employees feel better about themselves and the company. It adds to our skill base. Maintenance employees are very hard to come by, so we have used this to grow in-house those particular skills.”

Benedict said the training is a way to keep quality employees and allow them to progress in the company. After an employee has finished an apprenticeship program and has been on the floor running production equipment, they can receive training to be promoted from within to fill positions in the maintenance area.

According to Benedict, through WDC projects ICC pays for about half of the instructional salaries and commodities cost for training initiatives at True Temper, which makes the programs very cost effective.

Other major companies that participate in ICC Workforce Development Center programs include Metalloy Corporation, Mueller Copper Tube, Cooper Tire and Rubber Company, Action Industries, and Berkline Corporation. An estimated 19,884 people (with some duplication in the numbers) will receive training during the 1999-2000 fiscal year.

For more information, contact Hughes at (662) 620-5217.

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


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