State Labor listening tour makes stop at JSCC

Approximately 75 local small business owners, employers, mayors, educators, and state officials attended Tennessee Commissioner of Labor Jeff McCord’s listening tour at Jackson State Community College. The event took place in the Jim Moss Center for Nursing from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 28.

The commissioner presented an overview on the key focus areas of the Tennessee Department of Labor to aid business and industry workforce shortages. Those areas focus on three key under-tapped sources of labor potential: transitioning members of the military; adults without high school diplomas (adult education); and recently incarcerated members of society reentering the workforce.

Many comments were shared with the commissioner regarding current workforce needs and the development of the state’s labor infrastructure.

AMT Work Cooperative begins eighth year

Students of Jackson State Community College’s Advanced Maintenance Technician (AMT) work cooperative met with their new employers at a reception on Tuesday, July 20. The event, held in the Student Center, marks the beginning of the cooperative’s eighth year.

The 22 students in the Engineering Systems Technology program met with 20 manufacturers and are now ready to begin the two years of classes and on-the-job training that will then lead to a great-paying career as a highly-skilled maintenance technician.

Over the past eight years, the consortium of manufacturers partnering with JSCC has grown from 15 to 30 members. Local manufacturers created this consortium as a partnership with JSCC in an effort to address the severe shortage of skilled trades that exist locally and nationwide.

Since the creation of the AMT work cooperative in 2014, 133 graduates have been employed with area businesses and other locations around the globe. AMT Completion Coordinator Cathi Roberts said that around 20 students are admitted to the cohort every year. “We would like to recruit as many as 40 students every year,” said Roberts, “but the old perceptions of manufacturing environments still prevail and keep many people from considering this awesome opportunity.”

Manufacturing jobs have transformed through the years. Safety is the priority, and working conditions have dramatically improved. They require highly skilled employees, and annual wages typically range from $42,000 to $60,000.

“It’s not uncommon for our graduates to earn an annual salary of $75,000 after a couple of years on the job,” said Roberts. “In fact, there have been a number of graduates who have exceeded $100,000 due to the abundance of overtime opportunities at many companies.”

Roberts notes that students who complete the 5-semester work cooperative are all but guaranteed that they will be in a great-paying job the Monday following graduation. “Every graduate has employment offers prior to graduation,” she said.

Students attend two full days of classes each week, learning subjects such as electricity, fluid power, mechanics, automation and robotics. They spend three days working at a local manufacturing company. They are paid for their work on a graduated scale, earning $15 an hour during the first semester and $17 an hour during the last semester. When students take advantage of either Tennessee Promise or Tennessee Reconnect scholarships, a graduate is able to earn their degree and incur no debt.

To participate, students enrolled at Jackson State must complete a job application and write a 500-word essay. They then attend a series of interviews over the course of an hour with representatives from local manufacturing companies. The companies then select the students that are the best fit.

For more information about the admissions process and an application for the AMT program, visit jscc.edu/amt or contact Roberts at 731-425-9584 or email her at croberts7@jscc.edu.

JSCC to host grand reopening event

Jackson State Community College will be returning classes to an in-person format this fall. To celebrate this occasion, the college will be hosting a “grand reopening” on Saturday, July 31. The event will be held in the Student Center from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the college’s main campus in Jackson.

“We are so excited to be bringing students back to campus this fall,” said Dr. Kyle Barron, Vice President of Student Services. “While many students have done well in the online environment over the past year, many students simply need the personal interaction that cannot be replicated in a virtual setting.”

The event will allow prospective students to complete the application and registration process in a single day. You can apply for admission, complete your FAFSA, meet with an advisor, register for classes, get your student ID and parking pass, buy books, and tour the campus.

“Many JSCC students have been away from campus for so long, and this is a great opportunity to welcome them back and to get excited about getting back in class,” said Barron.

CARES Act funding is available for anyone who has never attended JSCC before. A new student can have tuition paid for two classes up to eight credit hours, and this will be in addition to any financial aid a student may receive for the semester. Additional funding may be used for other related expenses such as books and supplies.

Barron notes that there has never been a better time to attend college. There are funds available to help most anyone pay for tuition.

To learn more about the reopening event or the fall grant, visit jscc.edu/gotime, or call 731-425-2616.

Couple finds new family, each other at JSCC

Michael Williams and Marcie James arrived at Jackson State in Fall 2002 for similar reasons.

Michael, who graduated from high school in Hendersonville, was offered a scholarship to play baseball at Jackson State. His mom was disabled, he said, “and financially, it helped my family out to start at a less expensive community college.”

Marcie, who had just graduated from Jackson Christian School, said she wasn’t ready to go away to college. She didn’t know what she wanted to do after college, and she didn’t want to waste her parents’ money on a four-year college while she figured it out. Then Jackson State offered her the opportunity to play softball. “It was local; it was an easy choice,” she said.

When Michael and Marcie graduated from the community college two years later, they realized they had achieved much more than associate degrees. They were part of a family of athletes. They had a solid foundation in college studies. And, they had discovered one another.

“I found myself at Jackson State,” Michael said. “It helped me grow as a person and be independent. It was a win-win. It allowed me to take the classes I needed to determine my major.”

“Hands down,” Marcie said, “it was a good choice. It helped me figure out what I wanted to do.”

Both talk about “the family” of athletes they discovered at Jackson State. Athletes would hang out with one another and study together. In fact, Marcie and Michael met during a study session. “We became friends,” Marcie said.

During the spring of their freshman year, Michael asked her out on a date. “We’ve been together 19 years,” Marcie said. Today, the Williamses have two boys, Easton, 10, and Landon, 9.

They continue to stay in contact with a lot of the players they hung out with, said Marcie, who ended up playing both basketball and softball on scholarship for the two years she was at Jackson State.

Michael’s playing experience at Jackson State resulted in a full-ride scholarship to play baseball at Arkansas State University during his junior and senior years. “I was blessed,” Michael said. “Many people do not realize that community colleges have very competitive athletic programs. I had a full-ride baseball scholarship at a Division 1 school.”

Marcie followed Michael to Arkansas State. The transition from Jackson State to Arkansas State was easy, she said.

Two years later, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting with a minor in management, and Michael graduated with a bachelor’s degree in management.

Today, Marcie is a CPA and a partner at ATA, an accounting firm. Michael is a field reimbursement manager for Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

They continue to be involved in Jackson State. Marcie is on the board of Jackson State’s Foundation. Both encourage athletes and non-athletes to attend Jackson State after high school.

And they are frequent spectators at Jackson State’s athletic events. “We love sports, and we’re big fans of Jackson State,” Marcie said.

Both tell high school graduates to consider Jackson State. “It’s economical, and you get a good education,” Marcie said. “It’s challenging. Regardless of what some people may think, you just don’t go to class and pass. If anything, you’re held more accountable. The teachers know who you are.”

Recalling her time at Jackson State, she added, “I was blown away … by the teachers, the classes, the environment, and the level Jackson State genuinely cares about its students.”