October 12, 2017 10:51:47 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
East Mississippi Community College held its third annual "Industry Day" on Wednesday, but it could just as easily be called "Opportunity Day."
About three dozen students in EMCC's Electrical Technology and Automation and Control departments had an opportunity to show off their skills to about a dozen representatives from local industries while program instructors Bobby Johnson and Joanna Alford felt out industry reps for suggestions on how to improve their programs.
And if the past two Industry Day events are an indication, Wednesday's event may have been an opportunity for some students to land a job or internship.
"Last year, we had two students who were able to secure positions after just sitting across the table and talking with industry people," Alford said. "We really feel this helps us in several ways."
While the event creates networking opportunities for students, it also provides useful information for Alford (Automation and Control) and Johnson (Electrical Technology).
"One of the things we do each year is survey the industry people who come," Alford said. "We give them survey sheets to fill out and return to us after the day is over and we take a close look at what they are saying.
"We ask them to give us their opinion on the strengths of our programs, but also point out areas where we can improve," she added. "We can then tailor what we are teaching for those needs. Our ultimate goal is for our students to have those relevant skills they need to get those jobs."
Alford said the information they receive from industries is critical in fields where technology is ever-evolving, which can place a heavy burden on the programs.
"With budget cuts, we want to spend our money wisely," Alford said. "Through industry telling us what they need, we're able to take that information to our administrations. We'll say, 'We can't teach this because we don't have the equipment we need.' Our administration has been able to support us by giving us the industry-relevant equipment we need. If we don't have that equipment, we don't have programs."
As far as the students are concerned, Wednesday was a chance to talk to people working in the fields they are pursuing, getting feedback on their work and advice on their career path, as well as creating contacts within the industry.
"Actually, I'd like to meet everybody," said Jonathan McGee, who will graduated from the two-year Electrical Technology program in December. "I feel like I'll have the training, but they can tell me what the work is like."
Like many in the programs, McGee is a non-traditional student. The McCool native is 28 and married. He had trained and worked as an auto/body specialist, primarily in the paint department.
"I had some pretty bad allergies and when they told me I couldn't paint anymore, my wife talked me into coming over here," he said.
McGee said he initially hoped to earn his two-year degree and get a job with one of the local industries.
"But once I started, I liked it so much, I decided I wanted to go on and get into engineering," he said.
He said he has secured an internship with E Systems in Columbus, which he will start later this year.
"I'm really excited about the internship," he said. "It may be that I can go to work, save some money and then go on to engineering school. But I also might be able to go to work with the training I have. I'm open to both at this point."
Starkville native Westin Havard, who will also graduate from the Electrical Technology program, said his mind is already made up.
"I definitely want to go on to Mississippi State to be an electrical engineer," said Havard, 25. "When I first started here, the plan was to get a two-year degree and get a job. But I like it so much that now I want to take it farther."
Havard said Wednesday's event is a networking opportunity.
"Ideally, I'll meet someone here and that will lead to an internship that I can get while I go to school," he said. "I'm married, so the internship would really help out, financially."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]