MCC awarded $1.1 million grant for new career and technical program

Meridian Community College has been awarded a $1.1 million grant by the Mississippi Community College Board to implement a new Advanced Manufacturing Technology program.

The 2019 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Challenge Grant will fund the establishment of industry-specific programs that align to a sector or business and industry within a college district that have not qualified for traditional workforce dollars.

“Meridian’s application for the Advancement Manufacturing Technology Program demonstrates a critical need to meet the workforce demand requested by the local business community to reduce the skills gap in your district,” said Dexter Holloway, assistant executive director for workforce and economic development, in a letter announcing the award.

“This is exciting news for the College and absolutely speaks to our desire to address economic and workforce development needs in Meridian and Lauderdale County,” said MCC President Dr. Tom Huebner. “The challenge grant will serve as a catalyst for MCC to align career and technical education programs with ever-growing needs in advanced manufacturing.”

Advanced manufacturing has been revolutionized by the use of computers for design, machining and automation. Today, the design of most products and components is accomplished with the use of computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing programs (CAM). Computer numerical control (CNC) machining is at the heart of advanced manufacturing and accurate and efficient production of complex components.

Also, advanced manufacturing uses computers to control the supply of materials, the inspection, the quality assurance and distribution of finished products.

Dr. Richie McAlister, MCC associate vice president of workforce education, said there is a growing talent gap in advanced manufacturing and MCC plans to meet the challenge of addressing that shortage.

According to the publication, Area Development Newsletter, employment in advanced manufacturing is projected to climb to a 13 percent growth; the third largest in the state. Additionally, advanced manufacturing is the fourth highest paying sector in the state. Another statistic points that nationwide industry will need to fill 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade with 2 million of those jobs being unfilled.

Students who take Advanced Manufacturing Certificate core classes, such as multi-axis machining, mechatronics, CMM inspection, robotics material handling and additive manufacturing metal, will have the opportunity to cross train in other MCC programs including Precision Machining Engineering Technology, Systems-Based Electronics Engineering Technology, 3D CAD Engineering Technology and Millwright Technology.

The Advanced Manufacturing Certificate can lead to an associate of applied science degree. Graduates are job-ready when finishing their coursework.

The industry is eager to help get this program off the ground. Machine Tool Inc., a HAAS Factory Outlet, Zavation and Precision Spine partnered with the College during the grant application process. Tower Automotive, Fairbanks Scales, Hol-Mac Corp. have agreed to serve as industry partners and provide future apprenticeship opportunities.

Brian Warren, MCC chairman of the industrial division and Precision Machining Engineering Technology Program coordinator and instructor, thanked industry partners who offered letters of support to make the grant a reality. “This equipment will make MCC an industry magnet for not only Advanced Manufacturing, but also enhance the offerings in our existing Industrial Technology Programs.”

Specifically, the grant will allow MCC to meet the needs of advanced manufacturers: 5 Axis Machining, Swiss CNC Turning, CMM inspections, Metal 3D Printing, Mechatronics. and robotic loading automation.

“This grant is really good news for not only MCC but for all of Lauderdale County. Dr. McAlister and I spent many months researching and writing this grant,” Warren said.

Warren added, “We will continue to offer NIMS certifications through our Precision Machining Engineering Technology program, but these students and more from other programs will be able to stack their credentials with not only a technical certificate from MCC but Advanced Manufacturing training and certification through the Titans of CNC Academy.”