Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007
Local groups strengthen partnership
By SUE WATSON
The City of Holly Springs, several local industries and Northwest Community College met recently to discuss workforce development needs and partnerships.
Representatives from Maurey Manufacturing, Cash In Transit, Parker Hannifin - Racor Division, Thomas and Betts, and Lund Precision Group met at the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority with Northwest personnel and others including Ken Robinson and Mayor Andre’ DeBerry of Holly Springs and Bill Dawson of Byhalia.
Eddie Wood, coordinator of workforce development at Northwest, reviewed some of the ways Mississippi helps industries with workforce training since its inception over a decade ago.
“The State of Mississippi, in 1994, decided it needed to help industries with workforce training,” he said. “They put community colleges in charge of training.”
There are 15 community colleges in the state, he said.
Community colleges already had established partnerships with industry and provided technical training, Wood said.
“We are looking ahead to do some more things in Holly Springs and have been in the city in information technology training,” he said.
Northwest has partnered with the Marshall County Literacy Council for adult basic education and GED (General Equivalence Diploma) training and now partners with Catholic Social Services in the city and with the City of Byhalia to help those who do not have a high school diploma to improve their reading and math skills or prepare for the GED.
At the Regional Information Technology Center (IT) in Holly Springs, Northwest has provided instructors for basic computing and advanced courses.
IT now wants to partner with Northwest and industry to train forklift operators for the county’s warehousing industries. Since there are many fabrication jobs in the county, Northwest said it will help get basic welding classes started in the old John Deere building at the IT Center.
Northwest also assists local communities with pre-employment training so those entering the workforce understand what employers expect from workers.
“We need your input,” said Wood to the industry executives. “We want those things done the way you need them done.”
Jackie Jenkins, public relations manager with Thomas and Betts in Byhalia, asked if radio frequency training could be made available.
David Bledsoe, director of workforce development at Northwest, said a community college consortium has hired three trainers who work out of Tupelo.
“One is trained to teach classes for distribution centers,” he said. “We have a soft skills trainer for supervisor/leaders.”
Bledsoe said the colleges will try to establish specific courses tailored to the needs and requests from industry.
Woods said Northwest does not advertise its workforce training services to industry and information gets out by word of mouth.
Northwest, for example, charges industry for a portion of the costs of training done at the plant site, he said.
The state will pay for a portion of the costs of materials for leadership training, he said.
“The costs of industrial training classes at Northwest varies according to structure,” Wood said.
“Believe me, it’s a bargain,” Bledsoe said.
Beverly Alderson, manager of environmental safety and health at Thomas and Betts, asked if Northwest offers e-learning instruction.
Bledsoe said prior arrangements have to be made for it and Northwest can reimburse expenses up to $120 per course.
Guy Purdee, director of adult basic education at Northwest, said pre-employment training helps industry retain workers who are entering the workforce.
Individuals who take 20 to 40 hours of pre-employment training increase the retention rate by 80 percent, while industry reports that it retains only about 50 percent of employees who have not taken pre-employment classes, Purdee said.
Basic skills and GED preparation classes are available at Catholic Social Services in Holly Springs and at City Hall in Byhalia. Classes are held from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday in Holly Springs and from 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. in Byhalia.
Industries who have employees who need help with specific skills like fractions, can get that help at the GED centers, Purdee said.
Practical experience with GED preparedness shows that a learner with a solid 10th grade level education has a good chance to pass the GED, he said. It takes about 100 hours of class time to advance a student one grade level, he said. It usually takes a person who begins at fifth grade level two years to get GED certified, he said.
Pre-employment classes help see what a person is qualified to do and then the prospective employee decides where to go from there, Purdee said. Northwest asks only that the trainee be given an interview by industry. The student is not required to accept a job offer and industry is not obligated to offer a job, he said.
Wood said trainees should be functioning at eighth grade level before they go into pre-employment classes.
Alice Ray, with Parker-Racor, asked if Northwest has classes to train for mid-level jobs like human resources or engineering.
“We will reimburse some of the costs of training and bring in specialists to teach,” Wood said.
“The overall program of workforce training by the state is very flexible,” Bledsoe said. “You can ask for specific training needs or basic skills training and advanced training courses after a business has hired them.”
WIN Job Centers can help reimburse companies for on-the-job training administered at the WIN Centers, he said. And industries can apply to the state for a skills tax credit of up to $2,500 per employee who industry trains.
Mayor DeBerry thanked Northwest and the industry leaders for their participation in the summit.
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