Among other things, The Communiversity at EMCC prepares students to enter fields related to advanced manufacturing. Several partnerships are in the works at The Communiversity to offer additional training and services to benefit students and area industries.

February 8, 2024

The Communiversity at East Mississippi Community College is forging new partnerships to meet growing industry demands for employees with skills in existing and emerging technologies, while providing new career opportunities for area residents.

The Communiversity, EMCC’s 145,638-square-foot facility, serves as an educational hub for workforce development. Advanced manufacturing programs at The Communiversity include Precision Machining & Manufacturing, Engineering, Drafting & Design, Electrical Technology, Mechatronics Technology, Industrial Maintenance and Systems Based Automation.

The Workforce Services division offers numerous noncredit programs designed to help people upgrade their skills or obtain new ones. The Communiversity also works with area industries to provide training specific to their needs for both current employees and prospective hires. The WIOA Career Services division provides employment assistance and worked-based learning, with an emphasis on paid internships, externships and apprenticeships.

“Working alongside industry leaders, local and state legislators and economic development agencies, The Communiversity has established lasting partnerships that have help fuel a manufacturing renaissance in the area of the Golden Triangle,” EMCC President Dr. Scott Alsobrooks said. “We are forging new, exciting partnerships that will ensure that The Communiversity can provide skilled workers needed in manufacturing processes that utilize the latest, most advanced technologies.”

Here is a look at some of those partnerships:

Mississippi Advanced Composites Training Center

EMCC and Mississippi State University’s Advanced Composites Institute are collaborating to open the Mississippi Advanced Composites Training Center at The Communiversity, which is tentatively slated to be fully operational later this year.

Industry training offered through MSU’s Advanced Composites Institute will relocate to The Communiversity.

“The Advanced Composites Institute’s training arm will shift over to The Communiversity, allowing them to focus more on research,” EMCC Workforce Business Outreach and Training Manager Carlton Ray Hollis said. “Their training will be available along with the composites training that we already offer.”

Industries that utilize composites in manufacturing processes will be able to send employees to the training center. Aviation industries in the Golden Triangle area include Stark Aerospace, Aurora Flight Sciences and Airbus Helicopters.

“We will no longer just be training employees for industries in our district,” EMCC Workforce Services Director Joe Cook said. “We will become a regional training provider thanks to our partnership with MSU’s Advanced Composites Institute.”

Partners in the project include Northrop Grumman, Spirit AeroSystems, Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, and GE Aerospace, to name a few.In October, students enrolled in the Golden Triangle Early College High School on EMCC’s Mayhew campus toured the Advanced Composites Institute (ACI) at Mississippi State University. EMCC and ACI are partnering to open the Mississippi Advanced Composites Training Center at The Communiversity. Here, ACI Director Chris Bounds, at right, speaks with the GTECHS students during their tour of the facility.

Composites combine two or more substances to produce a strong, lightweight material. Composites are often used in airplanes to reduce weight and increase cargo capacity. A leading research facility in composites, the Advanced Composites Institute is located in MSU’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, a nationally recognized leader in the field of experimental research.

The Communiversity already offers a course in Composite Manufacturing, in which students learn techniques for building aircraft parts using lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber fabric, Kevlar and lightweight core materials, with the components bonded together with epoxy resins.

“We will be taking our training to the next level through the partnership with MSU,” Cook said. “What we are basically doing is building a manufacturing facility inside our school. Students will be able to produce Federal Aviation Administration-quality parts from the beginning to final inspection.”

The Advanced Composites Institute will move some of their equipment to The Communiversity, which received a $1.5 million grant from AccelerateMS to purchase additional equipment.

“This will greatly enhance our ability to provide cutting-edge training composites,” Alsobrooks said. “This would not be possible without the efforts of our state legislators and AccelerateMS. We are grateful for their support.”

Equipment at the composites lab will include a Gerber laser system for precision measuring and cutting, an autoclave for curing to commercial-grade standards, and a clean room that includes an air infiltration system and sticky floors.

“We will have industrial-grade equipment that you cannot find in this region outside of a manufacturing environment,” Hollis said.

AiM UP Lab

EMCC and MSU are teaming up to open a lab at The Communiversity to showcase robots that work alongside humans through the Advancements in Manufacturing Upskilling Program, or AiM UP.

The AiM UP program exposes industry leaders to opportunities for streamlining processes through technological advancements in the robotics industry. Manufacturers who adopt the new technologies will provide employment opportunities for students at The Communiversity enrolled in programs such as Mechatronics Technology and Systems Based Automation.

The first of four phases, opening the AiM UP lab, is expected to be completed this year. Through the program, The Communiversity is serving as the host site for the lab operated by MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering and the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, or CAVS.

Founded in 2002, CAVS is committed to exploring solutions to complex problems in areas such as autonomous vehicles, materials science, high-performance computing, advanced controls and human-machine interaction. Bagley College of Engineering’s Industrial and Systems Engineering Department and the Mechanical Engineering department have curriculum and career paths that tie directly into the functionality of the AiM UP lab.

Programs at The Communiversity include Mechatronics Technology and Systems Based Automation, among others. The Communiversity and Mississippi State University are teaming up to open a lab that will showcase robots that work collaboratively alongside humans.The robots, referred to as cobots because of their collaboration with humans, are automated arms that perform repetitive tasks, freeing up employees to concentrate on tasks that require more advanced skills. The arms can be equipped with different heads for use in tasks such as material handling, quality inspection and welding, to name a few. Unlike their predecessors that required manual computer programming, operators can program the latest generation of robot arms by moving them along a desired path while designating task waypoints.

“Basically, you are teaching the robot through hand motions,” Hollis said.

“The idea is to showcase a variety of cobots so industry leaders can look at them, interact with them, learn about them and actually work with them so they can decide if that application is something they can put into their processes to enhance productivity,” Cook said.

Once the initial phase of opening the AiM UP Lab is complete, future phases will include autonomous mobile robots and establishing an automated manufacturing process, which begins with the delivery of raw materials, production of parts, as well as packaging and delivery of the completed product. The final phase will consist of advanced 3D printing techniques to assemble end effectors that perform different tasks that can be attached to simulate retooling.

“The ultimate goal is to make our Mechatronics education platform the model for the state of Mississippi,” Cook said. “That way everyone is getting the same training that industry needs while making Mississippi an even more viable location for industry.”

Terberg Taylor Americas

In January of 2023, The Communiversity hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of a specialty vehicle manufacturing facility in Lowndes County by Terberg Taylor Americas Group, LLC.

The Taylor Group, a Louisville, Mississippi-based manufacturer of industrial lift trucks, and the Royal Terberg Group, a specialized vehicle manufacturer based in the Netherlands, are partnering on the $20 million venture that is expected to bring about 90 jobs with an average annual salary of $51,500 to the Golden Triangle area.

“Some states gave up on manufacturing- but not Mississippi,” Gov. Tate Reeves said during the ceremony. “Congratulations to the Terberg Taylor Americas Group on this exciting groundbreaking.”

U.S. production of Terberg terminal tractors, which are used to transport cargo containers and semi-trailers short distances in a cargo yard, warehouse, port or transportation hub, is slated to begin in 2024. Taylor Machine Works, a subsidiary of the Taylor Group, will serve as the Terberg Terminal Tractor Dealer.

In June of 2023, office space was provided to officials with Terberg Taylor Americas at The Communiversity.

“We are housing their administrative offices while they are hiring and training their supervisory leadership team,” Cook said.

Two of the 21 high-bay training areas at The Communiversity are dedicated for use by start-up industries and plans are for Terberg Taylor to make use of one of those bays.

“We are excited to partner with Terberg Taylor Americas, which is the first industry to make use of our incubator space at The Communiversity,” EMCC Vice President of Career Technical and Workforce Education Dr. Michael Busby said. “We are looking forward to providing future incubator space for the growing number of industries in the area of the Golden Triangle.”  

Discussions are taking place now to identify training opportunities at The Communiversity for Terberg Taylor employees once operations begin.

Taylor Group President and CEO Robert Taylor said during an interview with SuperTalk Mississippi Media that The Communiversity was a major selling point in the site selection for the new manufacturing facility.

“Truthfully, this Communiversity was kind of the icing on the cake,” Taylor said. “When we brought those guys from the Netherlands here and walked them through what the capabilities are, they were absolutely astounded at what the state has done and what is available to employers and businesses around the state.”

Other initiatives

EMCC will also provide office space at The Communiversity for MSU’s CAVS Extension center, which is another unit within CAVS that provides engineering services and professional development training to industry throughout the state. 

CAVS Extension is headquartered in Canton, with offices in Starkville and Biloxi. EMCC will provide office space for the CAVS Extension unit currently in Starkville to synergize training efforts for industry.

Among other things, CAVS Extension provides manufacturers with technical expertise in the areas of product and process improvement, advanced engineering tools, and state-of-the-art industry 4.0 initiatives. Those services include assistance with site master planning, technical assistance projects and access to advanced engineering tools, concepts, and facility simulation modeling.

The Communiversity, in conjunction with MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit, is also purchasing 10 Virtual Reality headsets for use by the public for recruitment and for training in EMCC career technical programs.

“When we have high school students come through The Communiversity for field trips, the virtual reality headsets will allow them to take virtual tours of the programs in which they are interested,” Busby said.

New leadership

In August, Busby was promoted to the position of vice president of Career Technical and Workforce Education.

In his new position, Busby oversees career technical programs at EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus, at the Lion Hills Center and at The Communiversity, where he serves as executive director. He also manages the Adult Education division, as well as the Workforce division, which includes short-term training and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs.

Busby replaces Dr. David Campbell, the former executive director of The Communiversity, who left to pursue other opportunities.

“We are grateful to David for the outstanding job he did and wish him well in his new endeavors,” Alsobrooks said. “We are also pleased to have someone of Michael’s caliber to lead the efforts of our career technical and workforce programs, which play an integral role in serving our students, industries and economic development agencies.”

Busby has worked for EMCC since 2016, when he was hired as an associate dean of instruction for the Career Technical Education division before assuming the role of dean of instruction for the college’s Golden Triangle campus in 2021.In August, EMCC promoted Dr. Michael Busby to the position of vice president of Career Technical and Workforce Education. He oversees career technical programs for EMCC’s northern district campuses and serves as executive director of The Communiversity.

Born and raised in West Point, he was on the tennis team at Itawamba Community College before transferring to MSU where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business. He went on to earn both a master’s degree in Education and a doctorate in Instructional Systems and Workforce Development from MSU.

Prior to working at EMCC, Busby worked as an instructor and administrator for MSU, where he held various titles, including that of manager of online instruction.

Since assuming the position, he has been working closely with representatives from local businesses and industries to create new partnerships that will benefit employers and students enrolled in career technical programs.

“We need to do a better job of educating our students and their parents about the exciting opportunities available today in career technical fields,” Busby said. “We want to encourage those students seeking a four-year degree to do so, but there are many people who may not realize that there are educational paths in career technical programs that can lead to jobs that meet or exceed the pay for many disciplines that require a four-year degree. One of the things I want to do is to ensure that members of our community are aware of the many career technical educational paths available to them at EMCC and at The Communiversity.”