Columbus students engage with local industry


Andrew Hazzard



Students at Columbus Municipal School District's McKellar Technology Center are getting an up close and personal look at local industries where they may one day work.


Chris Bray, director of CMSD's career-technical center, said it is important to allow students to picture themselves working at local businesses where they can experience upward mobility.


All of Bray's advanced students -- about 100 juniors and seniors enrolled in McKellar's 10 vocational programs -- had the opportunity to tour PACCAR's Lowndes County plant last week.



McKellar's programs vary from Early Childhood to Carpentry to Engineering and Robotics, but Bray said the good thing about touring a large plant such as PACCAR is that there is a job niche for almost everybody.


"We worked on trying to bring in different people throughout the plant to reach all our programs," Bray said of the PACCAR tour. "Even if you're in childcare or culinary arts you can work in an industrial setting."


Not only did the engineers speak to students, but the plant nurse spoke, which connected to McKellar students in the medical technology discipline. McKellar's law and safety students spoke to plant security staff.


"One thing I want our students to understand is the industries today are not the industries their parents and grandparents worked in," Bray said. "You have to have an educational background. You can't go straight out of high school and get a job. You have to have some kind of industry credentials... I wanted to let them know how they can advance."


PACCAR also recently hosted a group of West Point High School students, according to Golden Triangle Development LINK vice president Macaulay Whittaker.


Bray said his students also have a trip to AirBus scheduled for January. Steel Dynamics has also been invited to speak to the students.


Whittaker said the LINK has been working to help develop relationships between public schools and industry within the Golden Triangle, and that local companies have been responsive.



Columbus students prepare for WorkKeys


There are 26 Columbus High School students preparing to take the WorkKeys exam this semester. Columbus students also have an option to take an in-school course to prepare for the test. The students taking WorkKeys this semester are those who took the course, which offers students an opportunity to take mock exams and master relevant skills needed for industry positions.


WorkKeys is designed by the makers of the ACT test, but categorizes scores by metals, with a "Platinum" being the highest score. A "Silver" rating on the WorkKeys Test is listed as a requirement for the recently posted production line positions with the new Yokohama plant in West Point. It will likely become standard for all local manufacturing jobs.


Bray said Columbus Schools are working to become an independent WorkKeys test administrator itself, but that the process will lead into 2016. For now, students will take the test at East Mississippi Community College.


In the spring, 124 students from Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties took the test. Of them, 68 registered a score of Silver or higher.





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