RAYMOND – Only 18 months ago, Felix Davis found himself laid off from his job and still without a high school diploma.
Fast forward to today, and all his minuses have turned to pluses – to the tune of 26 hours of college credit and a 4.0 GPA thanks to the MI-BEST program at Hinds Community College.
“I was laid off from a job in manufacturing because of downsizing,” Davis said. “I’m a single parent, so I had to get out and do something.”
Davis, of Jackson, a 34-year-old father of two girls, met the program’s point person at Hinds, Dr. Robin Parker, at a job fair at Metrocenter Mall not long after he was laid off.
“I didn’t know there was a place you could go to get your GED at the same time as going to college,” Davis said. “I didn’t know that college was even an option, because in the past, not having my high school diploma prevented that.
MI-BEST is Mississippi’s version of the nationally recognized Integrating Basic Education and Skills Training program, or I-BEST. It allows adult students to train for a job skill while earning their GED high school equivalency certificate at the same time.
Students are prepared to be job-ready in six months to a year, train in high-demand areas and earn national certifications.
“Students can earn a high school equivalency while learning a skill,” said Parker, who is district director of Integrated Pathways and coordinator of Adult Basic Education at Hinds. She is also assistant dean of Career/Technical Education on the Raymond Campus.
Parker ties the program’s impact on the state’s workforce to U.S. Census data on skill levels of working-age adults. A 2014 survey of Mississippi adults 25 to 64 years of age showed nearly 30 percent had only a high school diploma, while another large chunk, nearly 24 percent, had some college credit, but didn’t finish.
“And that’s fertile ground in the state of Mississippi because we have a lot of low-skilled adults who really want an opportunity to enter a career to provide for them and their families,” Parker said.
After just eight weeks in the program, Davis landed a job at PCA, a packaging products manufacturer, in Pearl. He’s earned two pay raises and is now making $20 an hour.
In the classroom, Davis has completed those 26 semester hours in the burgeoning Industrial Maintenance area of study, where he’s successfully put past and present together.
“He entered the program focused and determined and quickly used his past manufacturing experience to validate the principles and concepts he was learning in class,” said David Creel, district director of Manufacturing Training at Hinds.
He’s also earned a silver-level Career Readiness Certificate, a credential used by industry to track basic job skills in potential employees. He’s on track to graduate soon with an Associate of Applied Science degree.
“My plan is to reach back into my community and help others who have the same need I had a year ago,” Davis said.
[tweetable alt=””]Student goes from layoff to payoff thanks to Hinds CC MI-BEST program[/tweetable]