The intersection of college and industry

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Reeves Barbour (center) in 2013 opens the Maritime Training Academy, which bears his name. Also participating are (from left) Mike Mangum, president of Jackson County Board of Supervisors; State Sen. Brice Wiggins; Irwin F. Edenzon, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding; Mike Petters, president of Huntington Ingalls Industries; Mary S. Graham, president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College; and U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo. (Photo: MGCCC)

According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020 the United States is expected to face a shortage of 5 million workers who are equipped with technical certificates and credentials. The theme for the American Association of Community Colleges’ 2018 Workforce Development Institute is “Exploring Intersections.”

The conference will focus on how community college workforce and economic development efforts require collaboration and cooperation across policies, practices, initiatives, partners and funders. Our institutions must “intersect” with business and industry to provide a solution for the shortfall in skilled workers.

The intersection of persistent poverty and high unemployment rates across the Mid-South underscores the importance of and need for innovative workforce development programs. Registered Apprenticeship programs provide one way to connect people with jobs that earn a living wage. Registered Apprenticeship adopts (with some variation) an earn-and-learn training model where apprentices split time between active, on-the-job training and rigorous classroom instruction in their chosen field.

Apprentices start working from day one with a wage and incremental wage increases as they advance in skill. Structured on-the-job learning with a skilled mentor ensures the apprentice is highly qualified over the one-to six-year apprenticeship term and ready to succeed in a dynamic job market.

Over their lifetime, apprentices earn an average of $300,000 more than their non-apprentice peers. For businesses, the programs correlate with lower turnover rates, improved productivity and an experienced workforce, resulting in a typical return of $1.47 for every dollar invested, according to U.S. Department of Labor data.

A true training partnership

One of the ways Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) is leading the state and the nation in student completion and competency-based education is by formalizing apprenticeship-to-credit pathways for its students. At the college’s Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy — a joint project between MGCCC and Mississippi’s largest employer, Ingalls Shipbuilding — more than 800 apprentices are trained in 15 craft areas and are co-enrolled as both students at MGCCC and in the Ingalls Apprenticeship Program.

This article comes from the current issue of AACC’s award-winning Community College Journal.

The program consists of 60 credit hours, allowing students to receive degrees in maritime technology. Degree recipients gain 30 credit hours through participation in a Registered Apprenticeship program with Ingalls and 30 credit hours through MGCCC.

Also, in partnership with Ingalls, MGCCC offers a maritime technology pre-apprenticeship program, which targets unemployed or underemployed individuals and guarantees participants an interview for the very competitive Ingalls Apprenticeship Program. This training goes hand-in-hand with the adult education program at the college, where participants will also work toward their high-school equivalency, if needed.

However, apprenticeship is just one tool in our toolbox. It may not work for every institution or every student, but through innovation and expansion into high-growth fields, our colleges will be able to meet the needs of our workforce and ensure our students are successful as they leave our halls.

About the Author

Mary S. Graham
is president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and chair of the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors.