ICC mobile lab touts manufacturing

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal Marion Tutor, left, and Ashley Brown watch the robotic arm do its pre-programmed task as part of an open house to show off Itawamba Community College's new Mobile Learning Lab.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
Marion Tutor, left, and Ashley Brown watch the robotic arm do its pre-programmed task as part of an open house to show off Itawamba Community College’s new Mobile Learning Lab.

By Riley Manning

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Itawamba Community College is riding in style in its new mobile career unit unveiled at ICC’s Belden Center on Monday.

The semi-truck’s 53-foot trailer holds six demonstration stations that exhibit the cutting-edge technology common to modern manufacturing jobs.

“The two biggest industries in this area are health care and manufacturing,” said James Williams, vice president of economics and community services at ICC. “In the past, manufacturing jobs caught a reputation for being dangerous, but now they are much safer and more technical.”

The unit is aimed at making junior high and high school students aware of careers available in manufacturing. Its stations showcase robotics, lasers, three-dimensional printing, and other innovations revolutionizing industry.

“Through the unit, students can experience a manufacturing environment,” Williams said. “And hopefully encourage them to pursue that career path.”

Initiated by the Mississippi Department of Education, the pathway program requires eighth-graders to “declare” a career pathway to explore. The pathway program’s intention is to expose students to a multitude of career options and focus their high school experience towards a general field based on their interests, performance, strengths, and weaknesses.

Former Amory High School English teacher Deanna Duckworth said vocational education has suffered from a negative stigma among high schoolers in recent years.

“People tend to brush vo-tech off,” she said. “And I think part of that is because teachers don’t necessarily have the knowledge to speak on how good these jobs are.”

Industrial maintenance instructor Ashley Brown agreed, noting that high schools typically push for students to strive for four-year universities.

“The bar has been raised on how technical manufacturing jobs are now. There is a need for skilled, educated workers,” he said. “Most of the jobs you can get with a two-year degree start off paying around $50,000 per year.”

After its inaugural appearance on ICC’s Fulton campus on Saturday, the unit will visit junior and senior high schools in Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe and Pontotoc counties, as well as area festivals.

riley.manning@journalinc.com