Celebrating Workforce Development

By: Sheila McLain and Andrea Williams Email
By: Sheila McLain and Andrea Williams Email

Meridian Community College hosted an open house and ribboncutting for its Workforce Development Center Wednesday.

Officials say the training offered here can be a new beginning for people who have lost jobs.

There is both short and long-term training available, and it can be either credit or non-credit courses.

"It will be responsive to the workplace and industry needs," said Dr. Richie McAlister, MCC's dean of career and technical education. "And it's going to be able to gear up in a hurry to provide needed training for this area. It presents a platform for training, to house a lot of different programs and one that is sorely needed."

"For the last year or so, most of the attention has been placed on unemployment," said Les Range, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. "But even though unemployment is down, this is a great time for people to look at job opportunities, training for job opportunities."

MCC officials say workforce training offers unlimited potential for both young and old to learn a skill that's in demand.

The Workforce Development Center has been up and running at about 25 percent strength for about a year, but the goal soon is 100 percent.

When fully operational, the new site will be the largest in this region, dedicated to offering technical training for people in east Mississippi and west Alabama.

With growing enrollment of mainly non-traditional students, well over half of those who complete their program find a job in that field.

"I would say between 80% and 85% of our students find jobs when they come through our programs," said Dan Talley.

Not only do the students find jobs, but Talley says they keep them. He says the hard work of former students is part of what is fueling growing support from local industries for the center.

"They have realized a very low turnover rate and great success as far as quality and that kind of thing from the employees that are hired out of our programs," said Talley.

In an effort to meet the needs of local industries, MCC even has programs that train potential employees for Lockheed Martin and Avery Dennison.

There are about ten programs offered in fields like electrical wiring, welding and plumbing. MCC officials say they are now waiting to see if they will receive some grant money so they can offer even more programs at this site.

That federal grant is for $2 million. If awarded, MCC officials say it will take at least another year to get the building equipped to house other workforce training programs that are now being offered on the main campus.

The courses at the center take anywhere from 40 hours to just over a year to complete.

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