Hinds CC receives grant, forges partnership to train deckhands

Posts by tag: Jobs

Posted by on 20 December

Hinds CC receives grant, forges partnership to train deckhands

Students in the Hinds Community College barge deckhand training course gather around to study more about safety in their line of work. They are, from left to right, Brock Perry of Pelahatchie, Ryan Watts of Oxford, Justin Burns of Crystal Springs and Logan Heineck of Starkville. Burns and Perry are employees of Magnolia Marine, Heineck is with Golding Barge Lines and Watss with Yazoo River Towing.

Students in the Hinds Community College barge deckhand training course gather around to study more about safety in their line of work. They are, from left to right, Brock Perry of Pelahatchie, Ryan Watts of Oxford, Justin Burns of Crystal Springs and Logan Heineck of Starkville. Burns and Perry are employees of Magnolia Marine, Heineck is with Golding Barge Lines and Watss with Yazoo River Towing.

When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, Justin Burns of Crystal Springs dropped out of high school at age 16 to help his family make ends meet. Working odd jobs, from cleaning deer to landscaping, Burns figured out through the years that he needed something more stable to provide for his family, including his new wife and child. That’s how Burns found himself graduating with a certificate from Hinds Community College, and heading to work full-time for Magnolia Marine, one of Mississippi’s leading barge companies.

Burns and nineteen other young men spent a week in December learning the safety hazards, terminology and expectations of working as a deck hand on a barge. This college’s involvement was made possible by a $2.3 million U.S. Department of Labor grant as part of a larger nine-college, eight-state consortium for community colleges along the Mississippi River. It’s part of the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Community College and Career Training grant program, a multi-year nearly $2 billion initiative. The grant project is aimed at expanding targeted training programs for unemployed workers, especially those impacted by foreign trade.

Working with the college is Maritime Services Group of Louisiana, a company that provides hands-on experience and promotes safety, team building and educational training. Together, Hinds Community College and Maritime are training employees of three leading Mississippi barge companies, Magnolia Marine, Yazoo River Towing and Golding Barge Line.

“These companies are not required to send their employees to this training,” said Tom McWhorter, CEO and instructor for Maritime. “They pay out of pocket to house and train these guys because they see how important it is. We are teaching these students about safety hazards, how to prevent injury and what to expect when they get out onto the water. They’re ready to jump right in as soon as they’re done, and that’s a benefit to both the employee and the company.”

So far, the program has graduated 20 employees, who all received their certificate of River Inland Decking Skills from Hinds Community College, and are ready to report for duty to their employers. Over the next three years, the college and Maritime will be providing one to two classes per month, graduating more than 300 trained employees, prepared to enter the field.

Some of the things they learn over the course of the week are how to properly wear safety devices such as respirators and protective clothing, which substances are potentially carcinogenic, how to do basic tow work, including soft lines and wire rope skills, and, most importantly, what to expect when they leave home for work.

The seven-day long training is conducted at a hotel in Vicksburg. Once trainees arrive, they are to conduct themselves as though they are on a real vessel; they must sign in with ID, wear appropriate safety attire, maintain the cleanliness of their quarters and spend hours working with equipment. The students are not allowed to leave to go home and have limited contact with their loved ones, all a simulation of what the real job will be like.

According to Casey Stubbs, crew manager for Golding Barge Line, the training is a huge bonus for the company.

“Back before we did training like this, we would hire a new crew and they would show up not really knowing what was expected of them,” he said. “They would spend hours each day trying to figure out the process of how things work. Now, our guys come on board already knowing the majority of what they will be doing. That saves us a lot of time and effort, but, most importantly, it prevents injuries and fatalities. Keeping our crew safe is a high priority.”

Breaking into the barge industry has a huge benefit for the employees, as well. After the training, all the students report to their companies as deckhands with salaries in the $20-30,000 per year range. After a period of only four years, deckhands can work their way up the ladder to become what’s called a pilot, making around $100,000 per year.

According to Dr. John Woods, Hinds Community College’s vice president of economic development and work force training, the college recognizes the great growth potential in river barge jobs. “This TAA grant will allow the college to train entry level deckhands for great, well-paying jobs,” he said.

This particularly enticed one student, Brock Perry of Pelahatchie.

“I knew when I graduated from high school that college wasn’t for me,” he said. “I wanted to find a career that didn’t necessarily require a degree, but offered a chance for me to advance, which is definitely a possibility in this industry.”

Logan Heineck of Starkville and Ryan Watts of Oxford both came into the barge industry after finding they needed more stable income. Heineck drove a delivery truck and Watts worked in fast food. Now they both have goals of becoming successful in a lucrative industry.

Burns says his ultimate goal has less to do with money and more to do with setting an example.

“I don’t want my kid to go through what I did; having to sacrifice to help your family. I want to be successful so that I can set an example of what it means to work hard and provide.”

For more information about the Department of Labor’s TAACCCT grant program, view the latest release here: For more information on Hinds Community College’s programs of study, including career technical programs and certificates, visit


20 December, 2013 News more
Posted by on 20 March

Utica Campus student lands job with Fortune 500 company

Not many college students are chosen for employment by a Fortune 500 company that requires security clearance, finger prints and background checks before completing college, but Hinds Community College Utica Campus student Daffany Collins was.

She credits her business office technology instructor, Shirley Riggs, for assisting her to this stage.

Recruiters at Lockheed Martin Company, specializing in global security and aerospace, found what they were looking for in the 22-year-old Hinds student during their recent visit to the Raymond Campus.

“We do a lot of customer service, and college students are perfect for these positions,” said Debbie White, operations manager for Lockheed Martin. “Students that have studied business administration or similar subjects can oftentimes use those skill sets in this job. The way we see it is, Hinds has prepared the students with the basics they need to get a job, and we can teach them the rest.”

White says that the entry level positions are great stepping stones to more advanced, permanent careers.

“I was elated to receive a call from Lockheed Martin,” Collins said. “All I wanted was an opportunity to get in the door; I am determined to work my way up from here.

“Because I am still in school, Lockheed allowed me to set my own schedule. I realize what a blessing I have been given and do not take it lightly,” she said. “I have my eyes fixed on moving to the top of the ladder because I don’t mind working, and I take every opportunity to learn all that I can.”

Collins began employment with Lockheed Martin the last of January as a customer representative. Her job entails gathering personal information from individuals whose jobs require access to secure areas of port facilities regulated with the Transportation Act of 2002. All information must be kept strictly confidential, including the location of her employment site, due to the sensitive information that she handles.

Of the 16 BOT students who applied for employment with Lockheed Martin, only two were chosen for employment, said Iyanna L. Colly, Hinds Community College Career Services Center coordinator.

“Corporate America is still looking for people who are trained in management skills and know how to handle an office as well as work with others,” Riggs said. “Our students come to school simulating employment. They are conscious of their behavior, work ethics, and professionalism daily. Therefore, when the opportunity arises, my students are prepared to meet the challenge.”

Collins is a sophomore honor student and is president of Phi Beta Lambda, the organization for business and office technology majors.

Collins resides in Hazlehurst with her four-year-old daughter, Carmen.

20 March, 2013 News more