Photo by Sue Watson
Marshall County Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett (right) looks at some of the technology in the John Deere Ag Tech building at Northwest.
County officials tour Northwest
Marshall County elected officials recently toured North - west Mississippi Com munity College, getting a firsthand look at the variety of programs it offers students.
The visit included an overview of the college’s curriculum and some attendance data; a tour of the Health Science Center, including the nursing facility; the Allied Health Center, including the paramedic and EMT programs; and a visit to the John Deere Ag Tech Building.
The tour ended with bellies full, following a steak and chicken lunch.
Marshall County was praised to be the first group to get the tour.
“You all are setting the tone for all the others,” president Michael Heindl said in opening remarks. “You are the first county to visit.”
“As the county goes, so goes our college. I appreciate the relationship we have with Marshall County.”
Chuck Thomas, chancery clerk, and Roy Lawson, county superintendent of education, serve on the college board of trustees.
Northwest has been transforming itself for nearly 100 years. It focuses on preparing students for higher academic studies after leaving the school and on preparing students for jobs in the Mississippi workforce, which is becoming highly skilled and technology oriented.
The Workforce and Education Act of 1994 established a state workforce development council affiliated with 15 community and junior colleges and workforce development centers. The program assesses workforce needs, training and placement services. Northwest is a participant in this new program of service to business, industry and government.
In 2004, the Legislature created the Mississippi Comprehensive Workforce Training and Education Act to provide quality education and training for the citizens of Mississippi - training centered on the state’s community colleges in partnership with industry.
Leading the tour were Heindl; Dan Smith, chief of staff; Matthew Domas, vicepresident of instruction; Dwayne Cayce, dean of Workforce Development and Community services; and Robin Douglas, district dean of career and technical education.
Heindl offered some quick facts:
• Northwest has five locations and is moving into the Marshall County Workforce Training Center at Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park.
• the Senatobia campus was established in 1927. DeSoto Center was established in 1975. Olive Branch Center was opened in 1985. Lafayette County opened in 1983. Benton County/Ashland opened in 1980.
• Northwest district serves 11 counties.
• about 7,500 students attend for credit and about 14,000 are served in non-credit studies. Student populations are comprised of 61 percent female and 39 percent male.
• 1,863 degrees were awarded in 2019. Sixty-five percent are enrolled in academic degrees that will transfer to other colleges or universities. Ten percent are enrolled in technical degrees or certifications. They are ready to enter the workforce. Five percent are career degree enrollments and 20 percent of enrollments are for Dual Enrollment that serve high schoolers taking college credit courses.
Marshall County enrolled 169 of its students in DE courses at Northwest.
• Northwest is recognized as one of the best colleges for online education.
• nine resident halls provide 1,069 beds. Marshall County Hall, opened in 2003, was paid for with funds from Marshall County. A new resident hall with from 160 to 180 beds will begin construction this spring. There is a waiting list of 300 women and about 100 men who want to live on campus.
• intercollegiate athletics include baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and volleyball. Both men and women have an opportunity to play sports. A volleyball team for women is being established and golf and tennis are about to be brought back. E-sports is also in the planning stages.
• right now there is not a lot of career technical training during high school. Heindle said it would make sense to have it in Marshall County at the workforce training center. It is something leadership in Jackson is taking under consideration.
• a vision for the college plans for instructional success, institutional success, personal success and community success.
• students will be taught to be a team player. Team players have the traits of humility, a we or us attitude, and those who want to find better ways to do things. People will be trained for emotional intelligence who want to work with others on a team.
• institutional health establishes open lines of communication between employees, transparency and high morale.
• enrollment from Marshall County was 666 with 72 percent for the recent summer, fall and spring semesters seeking degrees. Overall enrollment came to just over 10,000.
• top career choice programs include nursing and early childhood development. Adult education is on the rise.
• Some 96 percent of community college graduates remain in Mississippi to work.
• Northwest has a clear vision and end result in mind. A strategic plan has been created for 2019 through 2023. A new facilities master plan is also being laid out. The plan includes expansion of the academic programs, DE growth, and more Adult Basic Education opportunities. High school equivalency diplomas are a high priority.
Expansion of the workforce and career technical program is planned. More skills-based programs are to be added. And expansion of scholarships is planned.
Gary Anderson, county consultant to the Legislature, asked what incomes people who come out of skill-based programs can expect.
Heindl said a diesel technology and diesel mechanics program has been established in Panola County for over-theroad trucks. Starting salary for mechanics is $50,000 a year, he said.
Family-sustaining wagetype jobs will start at about $30,000 and go to $40,000 a year.
Graduates can train for a job or for a career. Career-type jobs include nursing and paramedics or EMTs.
The state wants to add computer coding training.
Marshall County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Justin Hall said, “There’s a job for anybody in Marshall County looking for a job in Marshall County. They can start at the high school level with Northwest and then go for two-, four-, or six-year training programs.”
Tax assessor Juanita Dillard asked if graduates would be work-ready.
Heindl said Northwest tracks graduates into the workplace to make sure they get a job. Students are followed after they graduate to assess the success of the programs.
Douglas said Northwest is pushing internship programs so students will be ready for jobs when they graduate.
Heindl said with the work done in Marshall County to provide workforce training, the county could serve as a pilot program for the state.