Mississippi Community Colleges Prepared to Train Toyota Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Sally Williams, Public Relations 601.359.5052
sawilliams@mississippi.org

Tammy Craft, Public Relations 601.359.2581
tcraft@mississippi.org

*To view and/or download a photo of the Belden Center for use with this write-up, please click here. To download a map for use with this write-up, please click here.

Blue Springs, Miss. (July 1, 2010) — Mississippi’s community colleges not only serve the state’s residents with their high-quality educational and vocational programs, they also provide workforce training that is critical to the success of many Mississippi businesses. Companies with operations in the state often praise Mississippi’s workforce as the secret behind their success, and it is the role of the state’s community colleges to provide those workers will the skills they need to succeed.

When two megasites – one in Blue Springs, near Tupelo, and the other in Lowndes County, Miss. – were being developed as potential sites for large economic development projects, four north Mississippi community colleges joined forces to create the Mississippi Corridor Consortium. Their goal: to increase the competitiveness of the region and its workforce and to be prepared to meet the training needs of current and future Mississippi businesses, alike.

“We recognized that if these megasite projects came to fruition, no one school could provide all of the training needed to support these giant industries,” said James Williams, vice president of Itawamba Community College and chair of the consortium’s governing board. “The consortium allows us to share our staffing resources to ensure that every need is met.”

The Mississippi Corridor Consortium is comprised of Itawamba Community College, Northeast Mississippi Community College, Northwest Mississippi Community College and East Mississippi Community College.

The consortium’s founders had great foresight. Today, Toyota is moving forward with its plans to begin producing the Toyota Corolla at the plant it began constructing at the Blue Springs site in 2007. Production is slated to begin in the fall of 2011. Also since the consortium was established, PACCAR, a global producer of light, medium and heavy-duty trucks, announced it was locating an engine production facility at the Lowndes County megasite. The company will begin assembly work at its new facility this summer.

“Since the consortium was formed, our members have worked together to establish many different types of training and certification programs for companies, including Toyota and PACCAR,” said Williams. “And when a company’s plans change – in Toyota’s case, from manufacturing the Prius to producing the Corolla – we are able to change with them, so that our training and evaluation programs meet the needs of the employer.”

The adaptability of Mississippi’s community college system, and the willingness of college and state officials to tailor training programs to meet each company’s exact needs, has ensured that Mississippi’s workforce has the skills required to make Mississippi businesses successful.

“Toyota is joining the ranks of global industry leaders like GE Aviation, American Eurocopter, Nissan and PACCAR, to name just a few, that are thriving in Mississippi, and our skilled and dedicated workforce is behind that success,” Governor Haley Barbour said. “By providing our workers with critical skills, the workforce training programs of our community colleges are contributing greatly to the success of these Mississippi companies and will be instrumental to Toyota as the company prepares to begin production in Blue Springs in 2011.”

After Toyota announced a delay in its plans to begin production at its Blue Springs Toyota facility, consortium members continued the work of preparing for future training opportunities – not only for Toyota employees, but also for the thousands of jobs that will be created by Toyota’s suppliers.

“We fully expected the plant to be completed – it was not a matter of if, but when,” said Williams. “And so, our whole goal has been to get ready for the day when Toyota training would begin. And we think we’re right where we need to be to provide high quality service to Toyota and its suppliers.”

In July 2007, Itawamba Community College purchased a former Lane Furniture facility in Belden, about a 10-minute drive from Toyota’s Blue Springs plant. Since that time, the college has used grant funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and MDA to transform the 250,000-square-foot facility into a state-of-the-art training and evaluation center, now known as the Belden Center.

Complete with traditional classrooms and spaces that simulate manufacturing scenarios, the site will be used to train hundreds of highly skilled technicians who will be working for Toyota and its suppliers.

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About Mississippi Development Authority
Mississippi Development Authority is the State of Mississippi’s lead economic and community development agency. Nearly 300 employees are engaged in providing services to businesses, communities and workers in the state. While the agency is best known for its efforts to recruit new businesses to Mississippi, the Authority provides services to promote tourism, help communities improve their quality of place, help existing employers identify and meet opportunities and challenges and help workers improve their skills – all with the goal of improving the quality of life and economic well-being of Mississippians. For more information, visit MDA’s Web site at www.mississippi.org.