Workforce education donation

Published 6:23 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Soon heavy equipment operations training will be available through Pearl River Community College, providing opportunities for a new career.

Numerous donations of money and equipment have been received by PRCC to get the program started. Training is scheduled to begin soon.

A $100,000 donation from Huey Stockstill Inc. earlier in the year will be used to create an equipment operator training program, said Director of Workforce Education Scott Alsobrooks in a press release from PRCC. Puckett Machinery of Hattiesburg donated $25,000 and Caterpillar Foundation of Peoria, Ill., donated four pieces of equipment.

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Tuesday morning, the four pieces of brand new heavy equipment donated by the Caterpillar Foundation were unveiled to the public in a press conference. Dale Miller, with PRCC Workforce Development, said the equipment is valued at about $500,000 and will be used for a hands-on training program to prepare prospective workers.

The program will be located at the Picayune Airport where safety training will take place, while 90 percent of the training will take place in a field, Director of Career and Technical Education at PRCC Don Welsh said. That field could be anywhere from Hattiesburg all the way to Hancock county where any community service work is needed, such as church parking lots or schools, Miller said.

Representatives from Caterpillar will come and train the instructors how to operate and maintain the equipment and in proper safety procedures with the machinery so the instructors can train the students, Welsh said. A possible second shipment of donated equipment is in the works if all goes well, Welsh said.

Students will be instructed in how to operate the equipment and how to maintain oil, water and fuel levels.

This will be the second program of its kind in Mississippi offered through a community college, said Dr. Jason Pugh of Workforce Education at the Community College board in Jackson. He said the other one is at Copiah-Lincoln County Community College’s Wesson campus.

In eight weeks students can learn the basics of operating the heavy machinery on the four pieces of heavy equipment, which include a track hoe, bulldozer, front-end loader and a rubber tire backhoe, said Hastings Puckett, vice president of Sales at Puckett Machinery of Hattiesburg.

Stockstill said he plans to hire many of the students who successfully complete the training. Currently, he has 30 open positions in the operator field.

“I have an immediate need today in the construction division of this company in the operator level,” Stockstill said.

Stockstill hopes the training offered by this program will branch out into other areas such as asphalt. If so, Stockstill said he hopes to bring in asphalt equipment that uses GPS and a laser to accurately grade and slope terrain. Such equipment greatly improves efficiency of large paving projects, he said.

Transportation of the equipment to training sites will be done by PRCC’s lowboy, but Stockstill said he could support transportation of the equipment.

Communication and other lessons will be intermingled with the curriculum of the equipment operator training program.

“What we’re wanting to do here is teach more than pushing buttons and pulling levers on equipment,” Stockstill said.

Stockstill said he hopes the program will branch out in to a technical program to repair and maintain heavy equipment, something companies such as Puckett could draw employees from.

The eight-week training program is expected to start in late February. For more Information about the program, call 601-403-1000.