The Hinds Community College Board of Trustees on Wednesday, March 7 approved moving forward with a proposal for a Comprehensive One-Stop Center to house career-technical and workforce training and support services in Metrocenter Mall in south Jackson.
Hinds Community College is working with 11 other partners on the proposed project. Hinds would administer the center on behalf of all the partners, said Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse.
To bring the proposed project to fruition, the college is partnering with the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, Mississippi Department of Human Services, Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Mississippi Community College Board, Mississippi Department of Employment Security, Families First of Mississippi, Mississippi Hospital Association, Southcentral MS Works Local Workforce Development Area, the City of Jackson and the Hinds Community College Early Childhood Academy.
A formal signing ceremony with all the partners will be held at a later date.
The center will house high-tech classrooms for programs to train workers for the advanced manufacturing, transportation, and hospitality and tourism industries. It will offer a range of training opportunities, from basic employability skills to two-year technical degree classes.
“We have a tremendous number of people in our area, particularly in the city of Jackson, who do not have a high school diploma and need to upgrade their skills to get a job. We’ve got about 80,000 people in the Jackson metro area who could benefit from this kind of help,” Muse said.
He said the Metrocenter Mall property is an ideal location for such a project. “It is centrally located, accessible to Jatran transportation and accessible to two interstates and another major highway. You can’t get anything more accessible than that,” he said.
Muse credited Mary Powers, Workforce director at Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, with getting the project off the ground.
He also expressed appreciation for the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, which is allocating .92 mills of taxes annually, or approximately $1.6 million, for the college’s share of the money to fund the operation. “The college has no additional money other than what the Hinds County Board of Supervisors has allocated to make it work. All the other partners are investing dollars and other resources to help us make it work,” Muse said.
“This is a game-changing opportunity that allows workforce partners to serve the people and respond to the growing workforce needs of business and industry in the 17 counties that make up the Southcentral Mississippi Works workforce network,” said Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president for Career, Technical, Workforce and Adult Education. “This center will not only consolidate the workforce partners into one location, but it also allows us the opportunity to grow and expand offerings with cutting edge workforce training that will help fill the skills gap that industries talk about every day.
“Hinds Community College is excited to have the opportunity to take the lead on this project. This project exemplifies the meaning of community, economic and workforce development at its best,” Stocks said.
The center also will have classrooms for MI-BEST, a community college program that teaches adult students without a high school diploma both academic and technical skills so they will be job ready. The center’s focus will also be on other workforce-related and support services for those students, such as job search, workshops, assistance with unemployment Insurance benefits, funding to pay for career tech training, On-the-Job Training opportunities, TANF/SNAP, Vocational Rehabilitation and others.
Muse said the college has a two-fold motivation for being involved in the proposed project.
“We’re out of space for a lot of our career and technical programs. Our enrollment has been growing significantly in that area,” he said.
“But, it will not only give us additional classrooms and labs to teach in, but it will give the citizens of our district a centralized convenient place where they can go to obtain the support services they need to get a job,” Muse said.
The center would encompass 160,000 square feet of both floors of the southeast end of Metrocenter Mall, where McRae’s or Belk was formerly located. The bottom floor will include an event area and programs for metal fab machining and welding. The top floor would include the bulk of the offices for all the partners and more classrooms, including those for mechatronics, robotics and 3D design.
The project renovation should only take about six months, Muse said. “Everything is already there – the infrastructure, heating and plumbing. They’ve just got to take down those walls,” he said.
Hinds could potentially relocate MI-BEST, Adult Education, the Early Childhood Academy and manufacturing related career and technical training programs to the One-Stop Center to support the initiative.
As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with academic programs of study leading to seamless university transfer and career and technical programs teaching job-ready skills. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolls about 12,000 students each fall semester. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.