RAYMOND – For decades, Bryan Spurlock and Harry Thomas plied their trade in service of country and family. With the help of a timely job-training program, each is now able to use past work experience toward a college degree.
The Prior Learning Assessment, or PLA, evaluates skills gained from outside the traditional classroom and allows college credit when appropriate. Those skills can be demonstrated in a number of ways, including industry certifications, standardized subject area exams such as CLEP, military coursework, course challenges or federal licenses. PLA eliminates duplicate coursework and shortens the time required to earn a degree, thus saving the student money.
“Knowing that at some point I would leave the military and need a degree to back up my training and experience, I jumped at every opportunity to further my education,” said Spurlock, of Raymond, a retired 1st Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and Mississippi Army National Guard.
His recent certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration in aircraft maintenance, coupled with his years of service to his country, have him on track to graduate from Hinds this year with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aviation Maintenance.
Thomas, of Jackson, was a 40-year veteran of the diesel and heavy equipment industry prior to his coming to Hinds as an instructor in the Diesel Equipment Technology program. But, one piece remained missing from his body of work – a college credential.
His experience in the field and his prior credits earned years ago at Hinds resulted in a Career Certificate in Diesel Technology this past July.
“I came to Hinds in the mid-1970s as a kid,” Thomas said. “I didn’t finish, but I was able to find work at that time and work for company with $3 million in sales. I’m just happy to be able to get that last piece to go with the other things I’ve achieved.”
Study program directors see the PLA as a plus for the college and the state’s workforce.
“Allowing students to convert prior learning into credit is a positive move for our industry, state and institution and I am proud to be a part of it,” said Brent Johnson, director of the Hinds Diesel Technology Academy.
“It’s a well-deserved reward for an outstanding individual,” said Stanley Whitfield, district director of Aviation programs at Hinds, of Spurlock.
PLA policy was made possible this year at Hinds with the help of the nonprofit Council for Adult and Experiential Learning through grant funding. The national organization works with entities in the public and private sector to make it easier for people to get the education and training they need.Hinds CC program credits work experience to earn credentials