Before applying for the East Mississippi Community College Heavy Civil Construction Program this past spring, 28-year-old Lamar Hobson worked at a furniture factory in Pontotoc.
He knew he wanted more than working inside a factory for the rest of his life.
“I would be inside the building all the time (and) just felt like I’d rather be outside working. I want to be a ‘smooth’ operator now,” Hobson said with a smile.
Hobson joined three of his classmates in a timed “Roadeo” competition Wednesday morning at the Communiversity in Lowndes County to showcase their skills in a bulldozer, tractor, excavator and an asphalt roller test. The machines they operated are used in construction jobs ranging from residential construction to road work. All four students are now graduates of the program and each won one of the four competitions.
“Most of my students have never operated equipment,” course instructor Mike Duke said. “None of them even knew how to get started. So, when we finish the class, we have a ‘Roadeo’ to show everybody kind of what they’ve learned.”
The Heavy Civil Construction program started at EMCC in 2021 with a class of four students. The goal is to provide workplace safety and heavy machinery training to people with a high school-level education.
Those who complete the course earn certifications from the National Center for Construction Education and Research in heavy equipment operation and workplace safety from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal regulatory agency under the United States Department of Labor.
Enrollment in the course costs students $1,250 for the eight-week program. It teaches students how to handle and operate heavy construction equipment through course work, machinery simulators and hands-on practice with tractors, bulldozers, roller-packers and excavators.
Duke noted that industry involvement in the program will allow it to grow and create more jobs for students upon graduation. One such company, APAC, an asphalt and road construction company, has hired one student from previous classes.
“This type of program gives a real safety and operations tight focus to that skilled labor,” APAC Engineering Services Manager James Williams said. “So these folks coming out of a course like this would have a leg up.”
New construction employees can expect to make between $17 and $19 an hour, Williams said.
Williams has already talked to Hobson and another graduate, Sylvester Craddieth, about interviewing with APAC for road construction jobs.
“They are great students,” Williams said. “We hope they come on board.”
Duke told The Dispatch that this is his second class at the Communiversity. He had five students graduate from the program, but one was unable to compete Wednesday.
Duke said the next class will hopefully begin sometime in August or September depending on how many people apply for the course.
Applications can be submitted through the EMCC website and are now open.