March 29, 2014 10:33:17 PM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
As of Jan. 6, 470 students have taken the WorkKeys assessment through basic manufacturing skills classes with East Mississippi Community College's Workforce Services division.
Of those, 65 percent achieved a silver ranking on the test the first time they took it and another 17 percent did so after additional training, Workforce Services Director Raj Shaunak said last week.
Shaunak spoke at a pre-employment session for Yokohama Tire Company hosted by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi at Lion Hills on Friday.
The trainees he referenced were undergoing the pre-employment training process for opportunities that will be available as Yokohama prepares to begin operations at its manufacturing plant in Clay County in October. Achieving a silver on the test, which measures the ability to process information and apply basic math and reasoning, is required, along with a high school degree or equivalent, to be considered for employment at Yokohama.
But the skills and credentials needed to be considered for employment there translate to openings at any industry in the area, Shaunak said. Training courses that prepare people for the test can be completed in just over a month, he added.
"Working with our employers, we found out what all common skills an entry level person going into manufacturing would need," Shaunak said. "If you want to be considered for employment, you must have a silver CRC or better and have the basic manufacturing skills training that we have devised based on national credentials. Then there's some customized training depending on what you want to do.
"We will guide you and we will have our basic skills specialists helping you achieve that goal so that you can be successful," he added. "We can help you with the knowledge part. We can help you with the skills part. The individual participant has to show the motivation to want to do that."
He projected there could be as many as 5,000 people who apply for the 500 jobs that will be available with the plant's first phase. Three more phases are expected to be added to the plant in future years, and each phase is expected to bring with it 500 more job opportunities.
Yokohama is investing $300 million for each phase. State legislators passed a financial incentive package last April in a special session that guaranteed $70 million in state general obligation bonds to construct the first phase.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.