Workforce Development Programs Near Tupelo, MS

Tupelo, MS workforce development programs earn rave reviews from employers and job seekers.

By Jason Zasky on November 15, 2013 at 10:01 pm EST

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Many local employers and job seekers have a relatively new and powerful resource in Lee County; the Belden Center at Itawamba Community College.

“It’s a one-stop shop – the place to go where we match employers and employees together, all under one roof,” says Vice President of Economic and Community Services James Williams, about the three-year-old, 250,000-square-foot center.

A WIN-win Situation

Job seekers benefit from the WIN Job Center, where prospective employees can review job postings, apply for jobs and take advantage of workforce training programs, continuing education programs and GED testing.

“We also have select career and technical education programs for degrees in emergency medical technician, welding, industrial maintenance, electrical technology and heating and air conditioning,” says Denise Gillespie, director of workforce development and training.

As for employers, they have the opportunity to post jobs, host job fairs and use the new training and meeting rooms at the Belden Center free of charge.

“And if they are looking to hire people, not only can we take applications, but we can do pre-hire assessments. We can put prospective employees through the screening process so the employer doesn’t have to do that,” Gillespie says, which explains why 65-70 companies are working with the center at any given time and more than 200 use its services every year.

Toyota’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program

Toyota shows its commitment to the future of Lee County by partnering with ICC on an Advanced Manufacturing Technician program, one which includes classroom instruction as well as hands-on work experience at the company’s Blue Springs automotive assembly plant. Curriculum topics include electricity, fluid power, mechanics, fabrication, robotics and advanced manufacturing.

“It’s a highly selective program in which students come to class two days a week for eight hours a day, and then they work at the plant three eight-hour days,” Gillespie says. “It’s a fabulous opportunity, but the individual has to be successful in both school and at work to continue each semester. If [they don’t meet expectations] we can drop them out of the program.”

Launched in early 2013, the five-semester program is already a hit with ICC, Toyota and students alike.

“It’s a fabulous model, and I would love to see even more programs go in this direction, with more industry partners because the concept of working while going to school improves student performance,” Gillespie says.

Gillespie credits much of ICC’s program success to the college’s close relationship with the Community Development Foundation.

“When you bring the community college into the economic development realm, it makes a big difference,” she says.

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