Officials promote job readiness to advisory council

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

As economic development officials continue their pursuit of business and industry they need to promote one of the town’s lesser-known aspects, Col. Ivan Beckman said.

“Vicksburg is an engineer city,” the commander of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center told local officials, educators and business people at a meeting of the Vicksburg Warren School District Jobs Advisory Council.

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“With ERDC here, the Mississippi Valley Division Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers, the 412th Engineer Command here, that’s the reserve command, and we have the 168th (engineer) Brigade. We have a lot of engineers here. More engineers per capita than anywhere else in the United States.”

STEM is the future

Beckman said ERDC officials “believe our future is in STEM, science technology engineering and math. And we’ve got 2,100 scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians and various other fields through out ERDC.

“We always talk about the power of ERDC; how can we unleash the power of ERDC,” he said. “The power of ERDC is its people. We know this; it’s not our machinery, or equipment or the facilities. It’s the people.”

The ERDC leadership, he said, are big believers in staff, big believers in community outreach and doing everything they can do to promote STEM throughout the community.

He outlined several of ERDC’s outreach programs like the Army Educational Outreach Program with its science and apprenticeship program and college leaders programs; Science, Math and Research Transformation; the Gains in Engineering Math and Science, or GEM, program for junior high school and high school students; and the Society of American Military Engineers summer student program.

Beckman, who took command of ERDC in August, told the group “I’m looking forward to being part of the team and I’m looking forward to continuing these programs.”

Getting job-ready

Beckman was one of six people addressing the bi-monthly meeting to discuss programs to better prepare students to be job-ready when they leave school.

“This is what this is all about,” School Trustee Joe Loviza said, “Keeping a skilled labor force available for the business and industry of Vicksburg and Warren County.”

Other speakers addressing the meeting included:

• Hinds Community College Vice President Marvin Moak said the college’s new technical building at the Vicksburg Campus is expected to be ready by March. He said the Warren County WINS Job Center will transfer to the new building once it opens.

“We’re very excited about that, because with public transportation, the opportunities for individuals to be able to go and get off and we’ll be able to serve them right there,” he said.

He said the coding academy to train people to write programs for computer systems is opening, adding the first class includes 15 students.

• Vicksburg Warren Schools Superintendent Chad Shealy discussed the school district’s programs, adding people from other school districts have visited the school system to look at the programs.

He invited officials and business leaders to arrange a tour of the school district “and you come look what’s happening in this school district that you won’t find anywhere else, not in this state, but anywhere else in the nation.”

He said the goal is to have students leave school ready to go to work, go on to college or go into the service.

• Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce executive director Pablo Diaz discussed the successful recruiting of Unified Brands to Warren County.

“It was really about bringing everything together and presenting a united front,” he said of the United Brands recruitment.

“There are many ways we can explain economic development to companies, but one way to explain it to companies is risk reduction,” he said. “Our job is about risk reduction; no fights, no drama, no friction. Whatever we can do so a business can go as fast as it can go from spending money — setting up, hiring — to making money — actually getting products out of the facility.”

• Warren County Board of Supervisors President Richard George discussed the new county jail, warning people they would see a tax increase to pay for it.

• South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour discussed changes in the city emphasizing the Mississippi Hardware building project and the expected $844,000 in state sales tax diversions for infrastructure.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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