ICC Expo links careers and education

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

FULTON – Thompson Machinery’s Chris Rowan brought a long-term outlook to Tuesday’s Itawamba Community College Career Expo.
Rowan was not there to do any immediate recruiting for his company, a dealer for Caterpillar. Instead, he wanted to help develop tomorrow’s workforce.
The expo, held at ICC’s Davis Event Center, drew about 2,000 high school seniors from 19 area schools. Booths featured both ICC academic programs and businesses from the college’s five-county geographic area.
In many cases, tables exhibiting local companies were placed next to those featuring the corresponding degree program at ICC. The arrangement was designed to allow the two groups to work in tandem.
At one table, students could learn about a career of interest, what kind of work it entails, how much its jobs are in demand and how well it pays. At another, they could learn about the academic path they must take toward that career.
That partnership is what brought Rowan to the expo. Although his company does not hire students with only a high school degree, he was there to support instructor Jason Gholston and ICC’s diesel technology program.
“The more students we have enrolled in Jason’s program, the more graduates he’ll have and the more opportunities we will have to hire mechanics,” Rowan said.
The spread of technology has caused many professions to become more technical and to demand more training, said the event’s organizer, Marcus Simmons, coordinator of college and career planning at ICC.
That makes an event that couples workforce and education even more relevant, said ICC President David Cole.
“Eighty percent of the jobs in the modern economy require more than a high school education,” Cole said. “What we’re trying to do is increase awareness of students of the careers available to them and the educational requirements of those careers.”
Matt Taylor of South Pontotoc High School knew he was interested in a career in an electrical field. Tuesday’s expo helped him narrow his focus to industrial electrical work.
“We came here and saw all of these good jobs,” said Taylor, who is also interested in joining the Marines. “It surprised me that so many people really went in depth about the different jobs.”
April Lynn Berry of North Pontotoc High School planned to use the event to learn more about marketing and communications, her latest field of interest. Classmate Alexus Gambrel was interested in forensic science.
“So many students haven’t figured out what they are going to do when they grow up,” said Harold Plunkett, ICC’s dean of health science. “They can look up information online, but here they can speak with someone about that career face to face. It gives them a jump to begin to think about what they want to do.”
Plunkett, who was representing the associate degree nursing program, said his goal was not to sell students on his program but to honestly tell them about the academic requirements and the nursing field so that they would know what to expect.
Rowan, from Thompson Machinery, also wanted to make sure students understood the importance of academics. He told them they needed to have English comprehension skills so they could read and write service reports, along with computer skills and math skills.
“They need to be prepared and to know they need to have a good grade in English comprehension,” he said. “They can’t just skate by and focus on mechanics classes.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com