Ellisville, MS - Clarke County officials, along with Stonewall, Quitman and Enterprise city officials joined Jones County Junior College representatives in a long awaited ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening of the college’s newest educational and workforce training facility. What started as a vision more than two-years ago has produced JCJC’s fourth off-campus Center.
JCJC President, Dr. Jesse Smith (left) is joined by JCJC VP of External Affairs, Jim Walley, JCJC Board of Trustees Vice Chairman, Ann Tucker, House Speaker ProTempore, Greg Snowden, Clarke County Supervisor, Darrick Marshall, JCJC Petroleum instructor, Travis Thrash, Clarke County Supervisors, Cleveland Peebles, Paul Mosley and Troy Smith, Clarke County Rep. of District 84, William Shirley, Clarke County Supervisor, Mickey Long, Clarke County Center Director, Jody Buchanan, JCJC Board of Trustees member, Carolyn Smith and JCJC Dean of Centers & Outreach, Clint James to cut the ribbon and officially open the new Center.
“It took a lot of effort from a lot of people,” said JCJC President, Dr. Jesse Smith. “They planted a seed and a building grew out of it. The Supervisors had a vision and it’s come to fruition.”
Funding for the Center came from the combined efforts of the USDA, Rural Development and the East Mississippi Electric Power Association bringing in $1,360,000, with the MDA and Clarke County Supervisors putting $2,000,000 towards the project.
“This is going to be an asset for years to come. I’m certainly proud to have it in our county,” said Paul Moseley, District 4 Clarke County Supervisor.
The 15,400 square-foot center includes two buildings and an outdoor training facility on 10-acres of land on Highway 513. It also features seven classrooms, a state-of-the-art welding lab and a petroleum lab. A 20,000 square foot laydown yard will also be used for fire field training, and the location of the oil rig and derrick. Students will be able to get hands-on training for the oil field through the Roustabout Program.
“Oil field related jobs are the county’s biggest employers. This is going to be the first school of its kind in the state. We’ll implement the petroleum technical workforce training and help our guys get good paying jobs,” said Troy Smith, District 3 Clarke County Supervisor. “The economy is slow but it’s coming back and this training is a way for people to stay here where their roots are and provide for their families.”
The Clarke County Center’s unique oil field training should help bolster the “oil belt” and give these potential workers an edge in their competition for jobs.
“They’ll have the same safety training and heights certifications that a roustabout trainee needs. Our guys will work on the oil rig here and at the ‘Mr. Charlie’training facility in Morgan City, Louisiana, along with welding certifications. They’ll be a step ahead of the crowd,” said Clarke County Center Director and JCJC welding instructor, Jody Buchanan.
Expectations are high for the first Petroleum Technology Program in the state in Stonewall because nearly two-thousand jobs were cut with the closing of two textile factories in the past decade in Clarke County. Those county officials now hope this educational opportunity will provide an avenue towards boosting the economy.
“This is going to be a nucleus of job creation and making lives better, not only for Stonewall but for Clarke County, all of East Mississippi and really the state,” said Representative Greg Snowden. “This is a dream come true because Stonewall has had its share of hard knocks. I’m so excited about today.”
“We built this and I hope they come and get the word out to our young people that if they want to make it they can start here. This is a nice facility and we need to keep it going,” said Cleveland Peebles, President of the Clarke County Supervisors.
Dr. Smith added the fastest pathway to a job is through the Community College system. The Clarke County Center is part of a strategy to ensure growth and opportunities in the region.
“Community colleges provide workforce training and college level courses. Increasing access to education improves access to the workforce with training credentials to fill jobs. Access is the key for regional development.”
The Center is currently offering GED/ABE courses with the Non-credit Entry Level Petroleum Trainee and Basic Welding classes starting March 16. College courses like Algebra, English Composition and Western Civilization will begin this summer with Non-Credit Commercial Truck Driving starting in the fall. For more information about the Center, call the main office at 601-659-0622.
Photo & Story by: Teresa McCreery, JCJC Media & Public Relations Director