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On Tuesday, February 2, the Hattiesburg City Council will review an updated memorandum of understanding with Pearl River Community College to include a number of new workforce training and skill certification initiatives for both high school and college students who call Hattiesburg home.

The proposal, which will be paid for from the city’s CARES Act reimbursement, continues the 2018 City Tuition Assistance Program for recent high school graduates. It also expands the program for 2021 to include scholarship assistance for individuals living in Hattiesburg who are pursuing Allied Health, Career Technical Education, Pine Belt Works manufacturing credential or other certificate programs.

“We know COVID-19 has dealt economic hardship to many in our community,” said Barker. “It makes sense for us to use some of the city's pandemic-related reimbursements to invest in our citizens who are making the effort to retool, acquire new skills and begin new careers to provide for themselves and their families.”

Eligible programs in the allied health and CTE programs include, but are not limited to: respiratory therapist, practical nursing, surgical technology, dental assistant, dental hygiene, medical radiology technology, physical therapist assistant, occupational therapy assistant, electronics engineering technology, industrial electronics, biomedical equipment repair, HVAC, welding and precision machining and manufacturing.

Pine Belt Works provides students with a 96-hour foundation in basic manufacturing skills allowing graduates to enter a sustainable-wage career pathway in manufacturing. Through this dedicated approach to learning, students are capable of earning credentials in First Aid/CPR, OSHA, as well as career readiness certificates and the basic manufacturing credential.

Additionally, students are presented with key concepts like precision measurement, lean manufacturing processes and problem-solving, work-ready skills.

Employers looking to hire Pine Belt Works graduates include Sofidel, Kohler Engines, Hood Industries, Super Stud Steel Building Products, Western Container, Wis Pak, Dews Foundry, Johnson Controls, and many others.

Barker continued, “There is a great need for skilled labor in Hattiesburg, particularly in health care and manufacturing industries. There are jobs available, but finding individuals with specific proficiencies and certifications can be difficult.”

The expanded memorandum of understanding will be on the City Council’s Tuesday agenda for consideration. The city’s total investment for 2021 will be $103,500.