Darryl Jenkins feels like his new job as training manager for Continental Tire in Hinds County is really an opportunity to come home to work, both literally and figuratively.
He has returned from north Mississippi to work close to his Hinds Community College home, and he’s also taking on a job with a company that has close ties with the college.
Jenkins, the son of retired Hinds Community College Vice President for Business Services Adam Jenkins and Margaree Jenkins, graduated from the now closed Hinds Agricultural High School and attended Hinds’ Utica Campus in 1985 before transferring to Jackson State University for two degrees, a bachelor’s in industrial technology and a master’s in education.
He returned to Hinds for about a decade, teaching electronics on the Utica Campus, becoming the chair of the department and serving as a faculty council leader.
He was director of the vocational center in Humphreys County schools for a year when he got a call from 1967 Hinds alumnus Bob Mullins, former Hinds Community College vice president for Economic Development who was the first training manager at the then-new Nissan plant in Canton in 2003. Knowing of Jenkins’ extensive electrical background and teaching ability, Mullins asked him to come teach electrical courses.
“Darryl did a great job at Nissan, and he enjoyed what he was doing. I was able to expose him to a lot of things we did at Nissan,” he said.
Jenkins’ background in understanding state funding, especially from a community college perspective, as well as his training background will make him an asset to both Hinds and Continental Tire, Mullins said.
“It’s really to the company’s advantage to have somebody like Darryl who’s got that kind of background and experience,” Mullins said.
Jenkins started work at Continental Tire on Aug. 27. The training center is set to open on Nov. 8. The plant will employ about 250 in 2019 and double that in 2020.
Jenkins said when he interviewed with Continental Tire, his experience with the Nissan start-up was a definite plus. “It was hard work and long hours, but it was rewarding. You see people excited about starting their careers and people starting with a new company,” he said. “I’ve been part of training, expansion and now another start-up. That skill and training has gotten me prepared to be where I am now.”
Jenkins said the Continental interviewers asked him, “Hey, why do you want to work that hard?” he said, laughing. “It’s just the excitement of something new, something big.
“I’ll have a big impact on how the training is done at Continental,” he said. “I will make sure that we maintain that culture of one of the best companies to work for in the industry and also get people trained, ready to get the plant opened on time, within budget.”
Jenkins was on the Raymond Campus Aug. 7 for an open house at the newly renovated and reopened Jenkins Hall, which is named for his dad.
“When I learned at the open house that he was coming to do this with Continental Tire, oh boy, I was so pleased because I know of his competency,” said Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse.
“That will be a critical position for us in the future working with Continental to do their workforce development,” he said. “I think it’s a real blessing that he’s back ‘with us.’ I say ‘with us’ because we’ve had a very good relationship with Continental from the beginning, and Darryl working with us on workforce development and training for them is just great.”
Jenkins said his time as a student and employee at Hinds has been a significant influence on his life.
“It’s the ‘family environment.’ You know, Utica was like a family. Everybody looked out for everybody else,” he said. “People knew me, and everybody was trying to guide me in different directions and telling me what I needed to do to be successful. It was a real nurturing environment. … Now I’m coming back to the Hinds family.”
And when he taught at Hinds for 10 years, his goal was to nurture his own students the same way.
“One of the most rewarding things is when I see my former students at the gas station and they say, “Mr. Jenkins, I really appreciate your staying on me and keeping me on the right path.’ I loved working at Hinds and seeing the students graduate and get jobs.”
Now the venue is different but the ultimate goal is still the same: ensuring people are trained and ready for work.
“As a teacher, you always say you have an opportunity to touch the future. So this is going to be an opportunity for me to touch the future in Mississippi through industry. Working at Continental will give me a good opportunity to be a part of a startup and make sure we get our students through school and through the apprenticeship program and also get employees coming from other places and other companies trained and ready to start a good career.
“Startups are life-changing,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be a task but I don’t think it’s going to be overwhelming. I don’t think it’ll be difficult at all to find the workforce and get them trained.”
As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with academic programs of study leading to seamless university transfer and career and technical programs teaching job-ready skills. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolls about 12,000 students each fall semester. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the fall 2018 issue of Hindsight alumni magazine.