By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Toyota announced a new education partnership on Monday that will allow students to be paid while earning an associate’s degree in an Advanced Manufacturing Technician program.
The partnership is with the four community colleges in the Mississippi Corridor Consortium – Itawamba Community College, Northeast Mississippi Community College, Northwest Mississippi Community College and East Mississippi Community College. The announcement was made at ICC’s Belden Center.
Students in the program will take classes at their home college two days a week and will have a paid internship at Toyota three days a week. The internship will initially pay $16.50 per hour and can increase up to $19.56 an hour. Students will earn the associate’s degree in five semesters.
“This is the new paradigm for career and technical education,” said James Williams, ICC’s vice president of economic and community services. “They are getting training and work experience at the same time. So many students come out of school with academic knowledge but they don’t have work experience. These students will be highly valued in the market.”
Graduates are not guaranteed jobs with Toyota, nor will they be required to work for the automaker. But they will be highly trained to be multi-skilled technicians for the company.
“This is an investment in the future of manufacturing for Northeast Mississippi,” said David Copenhaver, vice president of administration at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi. “Manufacturing has become so much more complex, and we need people who can work on the equipment and troubleshoot and fix problems. We have tapped out our area between what we have recruited and our suppliers have hired, and we need to grow our own.”
The program will pilot in January for students in ICC’s industrial maintenance program. It will be open to others at ICC and the other colleges in the fall.
ICC will begin with a cohort of 20 students. There are no prerequisites required.
The five semesters for the program include two falls, two springs and a summer. Students will still need to pay regular tuition.
Curriculum will include instruction in such areas as electricity, fluid power, mechanics, fabrication, robotics, advanced manufacturing, business principles and best practices.
As the program expands, colleges may also enter similar partnerships with other local companies.