Winter break began this week for eager students in Panola County.
While many students will use the time off to sleep late, relax with family and friends, and enjoy not having a daily schedule, two students from the North Panola Career Technical Education Center will be using the break to jump-start careers and earn spending money.
Seniors Johntavis Wilson and Marlin Wilbourn are among the new employees at Anderson Technologies South using skills they learned in the CTE program.
“I could not ask for a better group of men,“ said plant manager Dan McNulty. “We are committed to the community. It is important to invest back in the community to keep our business moving forward.”
Wilson and Wilborn are currently in the second year of their two-year carpentry class at the center. While taking a class trip to Anderson Technologies in November, the students approached McNulty about job opportunities. The students, along with former classmate JaQavion Cole, started working at the plant in November and plan to continue until they graduate in the spring.
“What was so wonderful for me was that they took the initiative themselves to inquire, and, as a result, they are working there,” North Panola CTE Center Executive Director LaKeldra Pride said. ”We believe in taking our students on industry visits. The point is providing them opportunities to expose them.”
At Anderson Technologies, the students make plastic armrests for chairs from 4 – 9 p.m. Monday thru Friday. The students utilize the skills they learned in the classroom while learning how to use new machinery.
The students earn regular part-time paychecks, and the company has offered to pay the students’ tuition for industry appropriate classes at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“I wasn’t planning on going to college, but now I will,” Wilson said. “I should go because some is helping me.”
The business connections between the CTE Center and Anderson Technologies started at an industry meeting held at the GE Aviation plant in April. At the meeting, Pride first meet McNulty and asked if her students could come to visit the plant. McNulty also came to a career fair hosted at North Panola along with 50 other companies.
McNulty helped the CTE Center host an industry meeting in June and spoke to a group of student volunteers about the traits employees are looking for.
Pride also asked McNulty to teach two groups of students once a month about the importance of critical thinking skills on the job. He plans to continue his lectures next year.
“Critical thinking is very import,” McNulty said. “A lot of manufacturing jobs involve problem-solving on the floor.”
The CTE Center teaches about 150 North Panola High School students, and sponsors seven programs including carpentry, health sciences, and teacher academy. At the end of these two-year programs they are able to use what they’ve learned and enter the workforce.
“We believe in exposing our kids to a variety of career pathways and letting them decide,” Pride said. “If they want to graduate and go directly into college that is wonderful. If they choose to go into the workforce that is fine as well.”
With their new jobs, the students are hoping to gain skills and experience in their trade that will pay off when they receive their high school diplomas. Both students are also thankful for their instructors at the CTE center for providing this opportunity.
“I have been here two years, and I have learned a lot,” Wilbourn said. “I think it has made [my senior year] better and I think it will help me out.”