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MGCCC's Work program offers training and excellent job opportunities

Stone County Enterprise of Wiggins, Mississippi

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Unemployed residents in South Mississippi are completing a college education and finding great jobs through Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College's iWork Internship Program. Funded through the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District, the grant's purpose is to assist students and recent Individual Training Account (ITA) graduates with bridging the gap between their educational and work environment. The program allows them to gain actual work experience related to their field of study.

The desired outcome of the program is for graduates to obtain permanent employment...and it works. Sofar, MGCCC has placed 24 graduates in 10-to 16-week paid internships with local industry partners, and many received job offers at the end of their internships.

"This program, now in its pilot stage, has proven incredibly successful," said Virginia Overstreet, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) coordinator for the college. "Thanks to the fact that the college has outstanding career and technical programs and terrific industry partners, these iWork program participants go from being unemployed with very little opportunities to well-trained, in-demand and well-paid employees working for companies that appreciate their skills."

Willie Lee, of Moss

Point, is now a process operator with the Jackson County Utility Authority. He was unemployed and worried about supporting his family. He talked to an interviewer at the WIN Job Center in Pascagoula and was able to return to school with a grant funded by WIA. He registered to take classes at MGCCC's Jackson County Campus in Process Operations Technology.

Lee said, "I knew a bit about process operations and the potential to do really well in that field, thanks to my brother-in-law and other family members in the field. I felt it would be a great career choice for me and for my family."

After completing his associate degree in May 2015, he returned to the Pascagoula WIN Job Center to start his job search and spoke with Overstreet about the iWork program. He then began his 10-week internship with the utility authority. Before the end of his 10 weeks, he was offered a job.

"We could tell immediately in Willie's interview that he was enthusiastic and motivated to do well," said Tara Sistrunk, Human Resources and Employee Relations manager at Jackson County Utility Authority. "Not long after he began working with us, we knew that we wanted to offer him a job."

Lee's supervisor, Raymond Ward, at the Gautier Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, said he has done very well since beginning his full-time job in August. "He is learning how to take samples and read them and operate the various pieces of equipment he is required to operate at the facility. He is an outstanding worker, and we are happy to have him."

Lee said the job is perfect for him because he is able to work during regular business hours and be home with his family the rest of the time.

Another iWork program graduate, Ivan Scuderi, of Gulfport, also found employment with the company where he did his internship. Now an automotive technician at Turan Foley Chevrolet-Cadillac-Buick Inc. in Gulfport, he was also unemployed with a family to support. He was enrolled in MGCCC's Automotive Technology program at the Jefferson Davis Campus and was recommended to Overstreet as a possible candidate for the program by his instructor.

After his graduation in May, Scuderi began a 10-week internship at Turan Foley, one of the college's longtime community partners. He was offered a job before completing the internship.

"This is a great job and I am enjoying every minute of working here," Scuderi said. "If you had told me it would all work out this way a few months ago, I wouldn't have believed it."

His supervisor, Wayne Karl, who is the dealership's service manager, said the internships are a win-win for MGCCC students and industry sponsors. "There is a shortage of certified automotive service technicians, and we know that the college's automotive program is top notch. By allowing MGCCC graduate interns to work here, we get to see how well they will work out for us before we have to add them to the payroll. And for them, they get to see if we are the kind of company they want to work for. There really isn't a better way to do this."

Karl added that Automotive Technology graduates should expect a high salary in a highdemand field. "People always need to have their cars, trucks and SUVs worked on, no matter the state of the economy because they have to be able to get to work. And with the advanced automobiles of today, you want someone working on your vehicle that is nationally certified and knows what he is doing. MGCCC has a great program that prepares their graduates to meet industry needs."

Copyright 2015 Stone County Enterprise, Wiggins, Mississippi. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: September 9, 2015

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