East Mississippi Community College Heavy Civil Construction instructor Carlton Ray Hollis, Sr., at left, gives student Tammy Warren pointers on the operation of a dozer used in the program in this file photo from February 2021. EMCC’s Workforce and Community Services division offers a wide range of programs designed to help put people to work.

January 24, 2022

East Mississippi Community College’s Workforce and Community Services division offers numerous training programs leading to in-demand occupations in the region. Programs range from skill-specific courses that last a few weeks to one-year certificates.

Services offered by the division run the gamut from customized employee training, to career services, workforce credentialing, work-based learning and adult education.

This year, the WIOA Career Services department was created within the division to consolidate the many community service programs offered at the college. The WIN Job Center now falls under the WIOA Career Services umbrella, as do a myriad of assistance programs once scattered across the division.

“We focus totally on meeting a person where they are, helping them find their path and working with them to develop a training plan, whether it is on the credit or noncredit side,” WIOA Career Services Director Greta Miller said. “Then we assist them in eliminating any barriers to getting into school or finding employment.”

Work-based learning is a priority, with an emphasis on paid internships, externships and apprenticeships. In August, the Workforce and Community Services division was awarded a $200,000 Mississippi Apprenticeship Program, or MAP, grant supported by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Under the terms of the MAP grant, employers send their workers to EMCC to receive training that provides skills needed by the companies, which yields advancement opportunities for their employees.

FlexFactor, a new learning program that encourages K-12 students to consider science, technology, engineering and manufacturing (STEM) fields, also falls under the WIOA Career Services department.

EMCC has partnered with NextFlex, local industries and K-12 schools to implement the program, which requires students in small teams to identify real-world problems and come up with devices that incorporate flexible hybrid electronics to address the problems. They also have to identify a target market for the product, engage in customer discovery research and pitch their product to a group of panelists.

“FlexFactor isn’t just about technical electronics,” Miller said. “It also gets into entrepreneurship and business models. They have to figure out how much the device will cost to make and who they will partner with to make it.”

FlexFactor kicked off in the fall with 274 students from three high schools in the college’s district. One group of students proposed the creation of helmets that could lessen the possibility of concussions, while another group’s concept centered around the use of specialized drones to detect and reduce acts of violence. 

Officials from both PACCAR Engine Company and from ABB, formerly Baldor Electric Co., conducted tours of their respective facilities for the students and served as panelists during their product pitches.

The Workforce and Community Services division also works with local industries and businesses to customize training to meet their needs. Last May, when officials with Plum Creek Environmental, a manufacturer and distributor of waste and recycling containers, needed additional welders with specific skills at the company’s West Point facility, they turned to EMCC’s Workforce and Community Services division. EMCC’s Workforce and Community Services division offers many programs to help residents in the college’s district, including these inmates at the Clay County Detention Center, who completed a Construction Skills class. The inmates are trustees with nonviolent offenses. Here, program instructor Johnny Duren, at right, looks on as the inmates frame a roof during class.

They came up with a recurring seven-week gas metal arc welding course offered at EMCC’s West Point-Clay County Center that also teaches precision measurements and blueprint reading. Students are guaranteed an interview with Plum Creek after successful completion of the course. 

In September, the division began offering a Process Manufacturing Bootcamp that teaches skills needed by those seeking employment with International Paper. This fall, two new workforce programs in Heavy Civil Construction and Electrical Technology were offered at EMCC’s Scooba campus at the request of local employers in that area.

 “These are all programs that are meeting the needs of local employers while providing students the skills needed to earn a good wage here in East Mississippi without having to leave home,” EMCC President Dr. Scott Alsobrooks said. “Our Workforce and Community Services division serves as a conduit between the local workforce and area businesses and industries, which benefits everyone involved.”