PRCC will share in funds

Published 5:02 pm Thursday, October 11, 2007

Three Mississippi junior colleges will share $7.25 million to train workers in advanced metal work and construction.

The training centers will be built in phases — the first two at Jones County Junior College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Eventually, eight centers may be built in the southern portion of the state from Jones County to the Gulf Coast.

To create the centers, JCJC, MGCCC and Pearl River Community College will receive funding through the U.S. Department of Labor’s $5 million Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Momentum Grant and a $2.24 million Challenge Grant through the state Board for Community and Junior Colleges.

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JCJC president Jesse Smith, PRCC President William Lewis and MGCCC president Willis Lott announced the grant program Wednesday during a news conference in Ellisville.

Charles Holder, chief executive officer of the Hol-Mac Corp. of Bay Springs, said the project has been a dream of his.

“One of the problems in this country is that skilled craftsmen are not appreciated,” he said. “In Europe, skilled watchmakers and artisans are as appreciated as doctors and lawyers are here.”

Holder said there is a need for professional-level training in the blue-collar world.

Holder, who heads a committee appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour to assess skilled work force needs, said his idea is to have training in welding for construction on the coast and welding for manufacturing to Jones.”

Holder said welders will be certified by the American Welding Society and trained in subjects including metallurgy, robotics and ultrasonics, according to an article on

Barbour said the choices for the initial centers were based on their proximity to existing manufacturers.

“We have a shipbuilding industry in the state and a huge energy industry in the state,” Barbour said. “These two community colleges are going to create centers of excellence on their campuses in those industries. Howard Industries near Jones is the largest manufacturer of transformers in the country, to give you a very specific example.”