New Hinds dean says learning trades still paramount

Published 10:41 am Friday, October 17, 2014

As the Great Recession set in six years ago and spiked unemployment numbers in Warren County and statewide, the message at Hinds Community College was to get that associate’s degree while jobs were scarce and it’ll pay off later.

It’s a concept that won’t change now that the employment picture has shown improvement.

“The same message will ring true, honestly,” said Marvin Moak, dean of Hinds Community College’s Vicksburg-Warren campus, on Wednesday during an address to the Vicksburg Lions Club. “We already have the industries here. We’ve already been running a successful secondary (education) program. These higher-level skills will help equip the workforce for not only what we currently have, but for economic growth in the future.”

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Moak’s address was his first exclusive talk since being tapped in August to head up the Mississippi 27 campus. He replaced Hilton Dyar, who retired in June. He touted the college’s workforce development initiatives, notably the Gateway to College program, which focuses on high school students at risk of dropping out.

“By completing that program, they will not only be able to get a high school diploma, but they will also get college credit for all things they did while they were there,” Moak said.

Warren County’s jobless rate was 8 percent in August, down from 9.1 percent in July. Figures for September are expected to be released later this month. Countywide unemployment rose steadily after financial markets collapsed in September 2008. The rate was in double digits from October 2010 through March 2012.

Moak, who moved over from being industrial service coordinator at Hinds’ Raymond campus, said demand remains high for electrical and welding classes, reflective of Vicksburg’s largely industrial labor pool.

“Yes, we want our children to all be doctors and lawyers,” Moak said. “But, not all our children are meant to be doctors and lawyers. And not all children are meant to be welders and electricians. But, we need to offer the options and the guidance for those children so they can become what they’re meant to be.

Enrollment for fall 2014 was 11,756, down from 16,551 in fall 2011 when local jobless figures were at recent highs. The Vicksburg-Warren Campus registered 656 of the current student load this fall.