The final round of President Barack Obama’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative included a familiar name as a grantee – Mid-South Community College. In the four years of the program, our institution has received funding each time, including twice as either the lead entity or the sole awardee.
Our educational partners are different this time – Southwest Tennessee Community College, the William R. Moore College of Technology, and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology – but our goal remains the same. We are doing everything possible to create and sustain world-class education opportunities that lead directly to financially-rewarding jobs in the Mid-South.
The $9.8 million grant announced by Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 29 is yet another demonstration of divine intervention that continues to give us hope for the future. The financial resources from this latest windfall will help our consortium – the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW) – address many long-standing issues and challenges we face in meeting the needs of current and future employers.
The GMACW is the result of a year-long collaboration and planning process that included the aforementioned colleges, the Memphis Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE), the Chairmen’s Circle (106 Greater Memphis employers), the Memphis Workforce Investment Network, the Greater Memphis Chamber, Leadership Memphis, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, and multiple education, non-profit, and community-based organizations.
That focused collaboration helped the Alliance secure this very significant award which gives our institutions an amazing opportunity to continue our work to strategically invest in educational programs that ultimately lead to great jobs for our students in high-wage, high-skill occupations.
In many ways, the latest grant will be a continuation and extension of what Mid-South Community College has have been able to accomplish with previous awards – the development of articulated education pathways which deliver the competency-based, stacked, and latticed third-party credentials recognized by business and industry. The specific career focus of the TAACCT 4 award is Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics, with a vision to expand into additional sectors in the future.
We’re pursuing a variety of training delivery methods, most of which will run quite contrary to the traditional higher education model of classroom lectures. We plan to establish industry-relevant training approaches that can help students obtain employable skills in the short term (less than six months) while also giving them the opportunity to pursue additional post-secondary certificates. The overall goal of TAACCCT programs is to deliver education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less.
The Alliance will also leverage its numerous existing relationships with public workforce agency partners at the state and local level. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the Workforce Investment Network of Memphis, the Workforce Investment Board of Eastern Arkansas, and American Job Centers are all involved in our efforts and will be vital to our success. Our employer partners include MicroPort Orthopedics, Cargill Inc. Medical Machining Specialists, Smith & Nephew, Wepfer Marine Inc., Empire Express Inc., and Nike, to name a few, and their input will be invaluable.
The TAACCCT 4 grant has provided us resources that we can use as a powerful tool to expand partner and employer engagement that is specifically aligned with the region’s economic development agenda.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said it best when talking about the initiative. “This program is not about tinkering; it’s about transformation. This is not about getting more students to enroll; it’s about getting more students to graduation day and into good jobs.”
One of the things that we fortunately have the pleasure of saying quite often at our institution is “if you ever wonder if God still works miracles, just come hang out at Mid-South Community College.” The recent announcement by FedEx Express of a $250,000 gift toward construction of a new aviation technology facility is another instance of amazing things happening to an institution that continues to partner with great folks while doing the right things for the right reasons in the right ways.
Four years ago, FedEx supported our efforts to establish an FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technology, and the company continues to demonstrate its long-term commitment, most recently with a quarter-million dollar donation. By virtue of their generosity, the “FedEx Aviation Technology Center” will dramatically increase the number of students we can train for the high-tech, high-demand profession.
The only way we’ve been able to make it to this point is the partnership that exists with FedEx. We couldn’t have created the new training models and certainly would have been unable to garner the external funds we have secured without their guidance and vision. If we hadn’t had that partnership and relationship – and really the push — from FedEx to more clearly understand their needs for the future, we certainly would not be where we are today.
The aviation maintenance program content — understanding exactly what employers need to be profitable — is one of the most difficult pieces of any training model. I can assure you that FedEx has demonstrated its leadership time and time again by blazing a trail for us to make certain that we produce exactly the skills sets that they, as well as other companies like them, need.
The concept of exposing people to world-class training and then empowering them to pursue great career opportunities is not something that has escaped the leadership at FedEx. Their vision, not just about their own needs but about the needs of the entire industry across the globe, has been the most important piece of this process. Without that, we would be no different than any number of other places around the country with good intentions but not necessarily a great plan.
It’s great to have an airframe and powerplant program on our campus. It’s also really neat that we are able to partner with our local school districts to start young people on that process very early in their educational careers. We’ve been blessed with a number of grants that have accelerated this process, and certainly the creation of a new facility in our community to support that ongoing effort has been seminal as well. But there’s absolutely nothing in this entire conversation any more exciting than having the program AND a new facility with a FedEx logo affixed to it. This is a tremendously significant step forward for us and takes our program to new level of credibility.
The donation is much more powerful than anyone can imagine. Certainly, FedEx’s stamp of approval of our program is invaluable. The overall impact of what their contribution does to galvanize the relationship between our institution and a world-class company is something you can’t begin to quantify by dollars and cents. Their support is allowing the College to create a tremendous platform for our students to be able to move themselves into amazing career opportunities. It’s not every day that a community college has the opportunity to partner with a world-class company.
At the end of the day, our job is to be able to help students find great job opportunities. We are very grateful to and certainly very humbled by FedEx’s continued investments in those efforts. FedEx has demonstrated great faith in our program, and they are clearly determined to serve as an engaged and generous corporate citizen to forge a stronger future for all of us.
While it doesn’t come with the fanfare of Independence Day or with a day off like Memorial Day, Constitution Day provides a great opportunity to reflect on our nation’s earlier times.
Constitution Day celebrates and commemorates the culmination of about three months’ worth of arguing, fussing, and fighting with the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. One participant called its passage “little short of a miracle,” and some thought the historic document would never last. George Washington was even heard to say something to the effect that it wouldn’t survive two decades. That just goes to prove that even great leaders can be mistaken.
At Mid-South Community College and many other educational institutions across the country, Constitution Day is a time of voter registration drives, special presentations, essay contests, spirited discussions and debate, and a variety of other events designed to focus our attention on an amazingly simple but powerful document.
This year, our institution hosted a discussion about the first and second amendments with distinguished panel members Mike Stephenson, Thomas Young, and Rachael Vaughn – all practicing attorneys in Crittenden County (Vaughn is also an adjunct instructor at the College). MSCC’s own Mark McClellan, who serves as Lead Faculty for our History/Social Science department, moderated the event. The rights to freedom of speech and to bear arms are two of the most cherished privileges we enjoy, yet they have been known to spark some of the most fervent debate of any of the Bill of Rights.
In addition to the finer points of law related to the first two amendments, panelists talked about the Constitution’s history, discussed its fluidity, shared some little-known facts, and offered some differing opinions on the various interpretations and how they have evolved through the years. The presenters did a great job connecting with students about the dynamic nature of the document which guides our country.
Here is some of what the students learned:
- The U.S. Constitution is the shortest written constitution of any major country in the world at around 4,500 words.
- Of the original 13 states, only three of them passed the Constitution unanimously. Four states passed it with the slimmest of majorities.
- The document includes several misspellings.
- The Constitution was initially just an experiment – it had never been tried before. The framers were not even sure it was going to work. They had compromised with each other so much that none of them was entirely happy with the final version. And yet it’s been copied repeatedly by other governments (as many as 100).
- At the time it was penned, the median age in America was 16. Nineteen of every 20 citizens lived on their own land, and 70% of them were farmers.
The U.S. Department of Education requires that public institutions provide yearly educational programs related to Constitution Day, but that isn’t our overriding motivation for providing enrichment activities. We do because it’s something we are convicted to do to enlighten our students and ourselves.
In spite of all their disagreements and maybe even a few misgivings, our founding fathers created an incredible document that has stood the test of time. It was no small matter to develop guidelines that provide balance and freedom while acknowledging federal and state interests and espousing the rights of individuals. The Constitution consists of only four hand-written pages, but it stands alone as a user’s guide to the best form of government known to man.
The Joint Performance Review Committee of the Arkansas Legislature met Sept. 16 at MSCC for a first-hand look at our workforce training model with an eye toward replicating it across the state. The meeting gave us a golden opportunity to highlight employment-relevant programs and training efforts at Arkansas Delta colleges.
For those who may not know, the JPRC consists of 10 state senators and 20 state representatives. The committee has the authority and responsibility for periodic performance reviews of governmental programs and agencies to assure they are in accordance with legislative intent and are providing taxpayers with the greatest service at the lowest reasonable cost. The panel also makes reports and recommendations to the governor, the General Assembly, and the Legislative Council to promote more effective and efficient operation of state government.
We certainly appreciate the work this committee is doing to bring attention to workforce-related issues. The skills-gap crisis that we hear so much about represents great opportunities, particularly for states with less-than-robust economies to reinvent their future. The states that embrace that need for change — some might even say radical change — are the ones that will move forward economically in the next decade. The states that don’t, unfortunately, are going to get left further behind.
Interestingly, the solution is really not all that complex — we need morphing. As soon as we figure out there is a very simple way to cause those morphs to occur, we’re going to find out the solutions aren’t very complicated. But if we continue to wander around and act as if we have to unearth and decipher some sort of secret code, our problems aren’t going away.
To put it simply, we need to get back to doing what we did to become the greatest economy and the greatest form of government in the world. We need to remember our great human assets and change how we think about educating folks. Somewhere along the line, we lost focus of what education is supposed to do. Although we were well intended, we lost our way because we’re continually trying to create some kind utopian educational existence for everybody.
The only goal that we should have for education people, particularly in a public setting, is preparing folks for jobs that give them an opportunity to sustain themselves and a family. Our public schools are doing the very best they can, but they were never meant to prepare students for jobs of the 21st century. Right now, we have a high school model in this country that basically says, “We’re preparing you to be prepared to go get prepared to do something else.” We need a bigger vision than that.
The paradigm of taking high school students and putting them in technical education while they’re still in high school is the most powerful model that exists in this country. In Arkansas, we’ve had the legislation to do it for years. What we haven’t done is appropriately fund it. We need our legislators to put money into the model and force educators to do it the right way.
It’s extremely difficult for lawmakers because they’re trying to figure out, ‘Well, how do I put money in education when prisons have to have this much more money, and these guys want this much more, and they want this much for the roads.” I don’t know how they figure that out, but if they don’t start putting money into employment-relevant education, it’s only going to get worse. I also know what works in eastern Arkansas, and if it works here, it can work anywhere.
Brenda Lloyd Barber and Kathy Lloyd Rice recently endowed a scholarship in their father’s memory, giving us all an opportunity to hear a wonderful story. By all accounts, Grover Lloyd wasn’t a great man in his own eyes, but he epitomized greatness in the way he took care of his family and treated others. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Mr. Lloyd personally, but his story is certainly heartwarming, humbling, and inspirational.
One of seven siblings, Lloyd dropped out of school after the sixth grade to help support his family. He later enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served his country during World War II. When his military commitment ended, he returned to the South, married the former Elizabeth Lynch and started a family. Lloyd wanted to be a farmer, but the best he could do at the time was work as a sharecropper. He soon realized he couldn’t make much of a living that way.
Lloyd moved to Chicago to work in a factory but longed for a return to his Southern roots. When he came home in 1957, he went to work for a farm machinery business in Mississippi County, Ark., and soon became one of its top employees. In spite of his limited formal education, he excelled when it came to dealing with machinery and, maybe even more importantly, people.
He started as a tractor repairman, and everyone recognized very quickly that he possessed a special gift. Lloyd became the company’s go-to guy because he absorbed new technology like a sponge. He read technical manuals like some of us might read novels. He was always searching for additional knowledge that he could use to benefit his customers.
Lloyd also put in plenty of hours. His official work week was five-and-a-half-days, but his daughters will tell you that he often worked much more than that if someone needed his help. On the rare occasions when he missed work, he was meeting the health needs of his family.
After 30 years with the farm machinery company, Lloyd decided to go into business for himself. He didn’t get a big retirement party, a pension, or even much of a pat on the back when he left. In fact, his employer told him he would soon be asking for his job back, that he couldn’t make it on his own.
In spite of what many of us would consider a major affront, Lloyd took it in stride and never said anything negative about his former employer. And when he did indeed make it on his own, he accepted the company as a client and considered giving them a discount!
In his never-ending quest to help Arkansas farmers produce greater crop yields, Lloyd began working on an automatic cutoff device for irrigation pivots. When his prototype worked flawlessly, he applied for and received a U.S. Patent Certificate. He sought family input on what he should charge for his innovation, a relatively simple device that didn’t cost much to produce or install. When a family member suggested $500, Lloyd was taken aback. He was thinking more along the lines of $25.
In his mind, he couldn’t reconcile charging farmers so much for something they needed so desperately. Lloyd finally agreed to a price tag of $100. In terms of fair market value, though, $500 probably wasn’t even enough because his invention was leading-edge technology. But Lloyd didn’t think like that. He wanted to help farmers, not line his pockets at their expense.
In his later years, he performed technical manual editing for Valley Pivots. When he spotted something wrong, he’d call and tell them they had an error on a certain page. They would look at it and say, “Well, you know, that’s exactly right.”
The Grover Lloyd Memorial Endowed Scholarship gives students in our Aviation Maintenance Technology, Diesel Maintenance Technology, and Renewable Energy/Process Control programs an opportunity for a formal technical education that eluded Mr. Lloyd. His daughters say he would be proud to be associated with MSCC and its practical training programs. We, in turn, are honored to be associated with a man of such strong character, someone who truly left the world a better place.
Lloyd succumbed to cancer in 1994. I wish I could have met him, but through his legacy, I feel like I know him.
On Wednesday, Sept. 24, Mid-South Community College will take another step toward a world-class Hospitality Management program with the official groundbreaking for the Jeremy Jacobs Hospitality Center.
Because hospitality management is a globally-dynamic and growing industry, this facility is of vital importance to our region. According to the World Trade Organization, industry growth is expected to triple by the end of this decade. If that potential is realized, many new workers with knowledge and skills related to the industry will be needed to meet the increasing demand.
By Mid-South Community College standards, the initial construction phase of the center won’t result in a huge building, but it will be a fantastic facility for our students. The architectural design creates an effective and efficient learning environment, and everything on the inside will be state of art. The building and what’s in it will put us in a position to give our students access to a world-class set of skills. Our architects have also engineered the $2.2 million building in such a way that it can be expanded as our program and training needs grow.
The overall program gives students an opportunity to pursue an exciting career in a broad field of service-industry professions, many of which can be found within our service area. According to hospitality industry experts, our region has a significant lack of skilled workers in the profession, so we are creating opportunities to train students to bridge that gap. The Mid-South is certainly a major international tourism draw, and the need for well-trained employees is particularly acute in the Memphis metropolitan area.
To accomplish our goal, we’ve created a learning environment where students can dream big dreams, use critical thinking skills, and fine tune their communication abilities. Much thought, research, and work has gone into our efforts, and we have tailored the program so that is unique and responsive to our region. Classes emphasize hands-on training and internship opportunities to prepare our students for real-world experiences.
Our program has been designed so meticulously and effectively that the University of Memphis has established a transfer/scholarship agreement with us that is a major boost for our students. MSCC is the first community college to have such a partnership with the U of M Kemmons Wilson School, and that speaks highly of the people on our campus who have made it happen.
Funding for the Jeremy Jacobs Hospitality Center has come from a variety of sources – The Assisi Foundation, the Delta Regional Authority, and Arkansas Economic Development Commission. But none of this would be happening without the amazing support of Southland Park Gaming and Racing and its parent company Delaware North. Their million-dollar pledge toward our hospitality program in 2012 catalyzed efforts to create a curriculum that prepares our citizens for current and future jobs in and around Crittenden County.
Southland has always invested eagerly and generously in initiatives designed to move our region forward, and we appreciate their vision for the future. Their ongoing commitment is helping our students pursue brighter futures, and that will have a profoundly positive impact on the economy of Crittenden County for the foreseeable future.
We often find ourselves so consumed by efforts to make Crittenden County and eastern Arkansas a better place to live and work that we fail to take the time to truly recognize those who are making it happen. Last week, however, we carved out a significant portion of a Friday afternoon to pay tribute to a number of folks who are affecting positive change in our region.
During a campus-wide meeting on Aug. 29, we recognized 20 employees with service awards ranging from 5 to 30+ years. To those who aren’t intimately familiar with Mid-South Community College, the 30-year service award category may appear erroneous if not impossible. But while Mid-South Community College is only 21 years old, the institution existed as a vo-tech school before that, and we still have a couple of those folks hanging around.
Barbara Stewart and Tom Cook have been with us since before the beginning, and the parts they have played in our institution’s evolution have been nothing short of extraordinary. Barbara started with Mid-South Vocational-Technical School in June 1979 and has spent most of her 35 years working in the accounting/purchasing world. Tom came five years later and has performed the majority of his assignments in the every-changing information technology realm.
Our 20-year service awards winners included Dr. Barbara Baxter, Randy Webb, and Sandra Williams. Barbara came to MSCC in March 1994 and worked many years as Vice President for Academic Affairs before ascending to the Executive Vice President position. We probably wouldn’t have a college if not for all of her efforts toward accreditation and assessment. Sandra started three months later and has been handling our payroll for as long as I can remember. As I’m sure you can imagine, her area of expertise makes her one of our most popular employees. Randy came to work for us as Physical Plant director in August of that year, and his job gets bigger and bigger every year as we add buildings and acreage. Reflecting on the contribution of our 20-year employees, I believe saying 1994 was a good year for Mid-South Community College would be a major understatement.
Anabeth Bartholomew and Phillip Marshall received 15-year awards, and I can’t imagine our campus without them. Anabeth came to us in July 1999 and served in a couple of different roles before settling into the Adult Education department where she encourages students to complete their high school equivalency diploma. Phillip started a month before Anabeth, and he directs all of our information technology efforts. That probably doesn’t sound anywhere near as complex as it truly us, considering the mind-boggling number of computers that fill our classrooms, labs, and offices,
Ten-year awards went to Sanjay Chowdhury, Suvra Chowdhury, Jim French, Ted Sutton, and John Wilkinson. Sanjay and John are Business/Business Technology faculty members, and Suvra coordinates our Café/Grill efforts. Jim works afternoons and evenings in our maintenance department and ensures that all of the doors are locked when the day ends. Ted makes sure we have all of the equipment and supplies necessary to keep the college running when the doors are open.
Veronica Blake, Shermel Brown, Pam Capps, Donyelle Hampton, Sandra Mabry, and Mellody Selph earned five-year awards. Veronica oversees a portion of our Title III grant efforts, and Shermel teaches mathematics for us. Pam coordinates our Medical Assisting academic program, and Sandra directs the Educational Opportunity Center on our campus. Mellody serves as a TRiO Student Support Services Counselor.
The coolest thing about Mid-South Community College is that we are poster children for the existence of divine intervention. Every time we really need anything of any significance, it shows up. While I usually reference grant awards and major donations when talking about divine intervention, I recognize that it applies just as much, if not more, to employees. We have some of the most dedicated, hard-working employees in the state and region, and all of them are helping to change lives every day.