Programs like Hinds’ Industrial Maintenance program on the Raymond, Rankin, Vicksburg-Warren and Utica campuses are at the heart of workforce training efforts for Continental Tire, which plans a $1.45 billion plant in western Hinds County.
“Hinds’ specific role is to develop and deliver workforce training to individuals in our state who will ultimately fill jobs that Continental Tire will bring to our area,” said Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president for Workforce Development, about the project, two years in the making. “We’ve been working closely with the Mississippi Development Authority, the Mississippi Employment Security Commission and the Mississippi Community College Board to come up with the specific training needs for Continental Tire.”
The global company, in partnership with Gov. Phil Bryant, a Hinds graduate, and the Mississippi Development Authority announced on Feb. 8 the location of the facility on more than 900 acres off Norrell Road, off I-20 West in Hinds County. Construction of the facility is slated to begin in January 2018, with tire production to begin in 2019. The plant will employ 2,500, company officials have said. Gov. Bryant has mentioned Jackson, Bolton, Vicksburg and Edwards as areas that should benefit from jobs created by the plant.
“I really believe that this has the greatest possibility to revolutionize western Hinds County of anything I’ve seen since I’ve been here. It has that possibility,” said Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse. “It’s an opportunity the college has got to show people we can be successful and really be a player. In the final analysis, they wouldn’t be here unless we could train the workforce.”
Industrial Maintenance is among several other workforce training courses that offer career certificates that can enhance a resume’ and open educational doors for students who might not otherwise attend college.
Christolein Simmons, a Yazoo County native, was steered by his academic advisers to take introductory class in mechatronics, an emerging multidisciplinary field of engineering that combines mechanical, electrical, telecommunications, control and computer engineering. He works in a factory and attends school, though the training at Hinds could be a key to career advancement, Simmons said.
“I just love working with my hands,” he said. “And every day, it brings something new. We’re learning to troubleshoot and just doing the framework before we get hands-on. I think I can go on to a four-year college, enhance myself, then go on to work somewhere and continue to go to school.”
Reid Scoggins, of Richland, is also a student in his first course in Industrial Maintenance. His family has run an industrial equipment business for decades, but his father encouraged him to further his education.
“He said it never hurts to have a degree,” Scoggins said. “And with this degree, you can make good money. I’ve liked machines and working on things with my hands. When I got into the program, they showed us all the machines they’d work on and the things we’d learn to do. It piqued my interest.”
Visits to the state’s two-year colleges by company officials cemented the role they’ll play in supplying the workforce.
“It was key for the program for them to see what Hinds Community College and other community colleges offer,” said David Creel, district director of Manufacturing Training. “The programs here at Hinds will complement the processes that Continental will have.”
Stocks had the responsibility of showing the college had the expertise and capacity to train the workers needed.
“What attracted Continental was our college being a 100-year-old institution with a proven track record of training and flexibility plus availability of the consortium,” Stocks said. “We were able to demonstrate all that.”
Paul Williams, executive vice president for Continental Commercial Vehicle Tires in the Americas, said after the formal announcement a lot of locations were toured but the capacity for growing skilled workers was a key factor. “We toured the schools; we toured the technical colleges. Our greatest asset is always our people. It’s the skill level, the technical capability of the population.”
Students in the Industrial Maintenance program begin with safety courses, then move on to more involved electrical and mechanical maintenance courses that involve the latest technology that can simulate a factory setting. Completion of advanced coursework in mechatronics can earn a student an Associate of Applied Science degree.