Pearl River CC receives $1.7M in grants for workforce projects, new equipment | #education | #technology | #training

Pearl River Community College has continued its commitment to helping grow local business and industry with the help of $1.7 million in grants from AccelerateMS and the Mississippi Office of Workforce Development.

That grant, which was announced at a July 14 media conference at the Lowery Woodall Advanced Technology Center in Hattiesburg, will create the talent pipeline which local business and industries need to adapt to the workforce challenges that were brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference was attended by Gov. Tate Reeves, along with PRCC president Adam Breerwood and several school officials.

The grants will allow for the purchase of new, cutting-edge equipment as well as aid in instructional costs and tuition assistance for qualified students. 

“Because of the support of a lot of people in this room, we will change the face of this area,” Breerwood said. “We’re committed to a lot of educational pathways for all of (our) students.

“Last year, our institution provided $6 million … in scholarships. We know that people need the work, and one of our biggest challenges and obstacles is the financial challenge of going to college. The Forrest County Board of Supervisors, we cannot thank y’all enough, because you’ve been absolutely exceptional – everything you’ve asked for, you’ve given us.”

The majority of the $1.7 million in grant money is approximately $1.1 million for Advanced Manufacturing and Distribution Support. That effort will help strengthen the local supply chain to enable employers to have the workforce they need to produce and distribute American-made goods worldwide.

Grant money for the Advanced Manufacturing and Distribution Support will help fund a mobile mechanical classroom that can be used where workforce and career-technical classes are held throughout PRCC’s six-county district, including Forrest, Lamar, Marion, Jeff Davis, Pearl River and Hancock counties. It will also provide funding for a new truck to be used for CDL training in Hancock County. 

Those funds will provide technical skills training for credit career-technical programs and non-credit workforce programs in field that support the advanced manufacturing and distribution centers. Students and local employees entering training will be able to earn both credentials (manufacturing skills basic, NCCER Core, FANUC Robotics Tool Handling, and CDL) and career and technical degrees.

“We have to communicate better about best practices in our community, share that knowledge amongst communities, specifically as it relates to workforce and workforce education,” AccelerateMS executive director Ryan Miller said. “How do we help people get into better careers, and how do we get more Mississippians into careers that are transformative and have the potential for improving economic growth and financial stability?

“We all have to cooperate together and coordinate our resources. The state of Mississippi has a great amount of resources available, but it we don’t focus it, we won’t achieve its maximum potential. We’ve got to coordinate and cooperate better.”

The second grant, for $671,275.31, is for Healthcare Training, which is designed to address healthcare professional and staff shortages. The grant for Healthcare Training will help support a new Diagnostic Medical Sonography program at the Forrest County campus, as well as help expand the ADN nursing program to nights on the Poplarville campus and help establish an ADN program at the Forrest County Campus. 

“I’ve been around a long time, and in the old days when we looked at economic development and job growth, what we always heard was ‘tell me about incentives, and how much money you’re going to give me to locate there,’” Reeves said. “Nowadays, of course, that’s still important and they still talk about it, but that’s not the first question.

“The first question is always ‘tell me about your workforce. Tell me about who and how many people in your particular region or state are going to come to work every single day and help me produce the product I want to produce.’ So as I’ve heard that repeatedly over several years, it drove me to focus on this idea of workforce training and workforce development.”

Over the past five years, Pearl River Community College has grown from Mississippi’s ninth-largest community college to the fourth-largest in the state. PRCC also has boasted a 50 percent enrollment increase during that time.

“We’re Mississippi’s fastest-growing community college,” Breerwood said. “Also, (rates) remain affordable; we have not raised tuition since January 1st of 2017.

“We will not put (adversity) on the backs of our students. Instead, we decided to look in the mirror and decide how we can become more efficient. Our goal, our job, is to remain affordable and accessible to people, but most importantly, efficient.”

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